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of tbe 

of {Toronto 

Miss Florence V*Keys, 

Two Tragedies of Seneca 

Two Tragedies of Seneca 

Medea and The Daughters 
of Troy 

Rendered into English Verse, with an Introduction 


Ella Isabel Harris 

Boston and New York 
Houghton, Mifflin and Company 









Sources of Senecan Influence on English Drama. 
Tendencies of Senecan Influence as felt by English 

Direct Borrowings from Senecan Tragedies. 






THE interest of English students in the dramas 
of Seneca lies in the powerful influence exerted by 
them upon the evolution of the English drama, 
and these translations have been undertaken in 
the hope that they may be found useful to Eng 
lish students of English drama. 

Though all the tragedies ascribed to Seneca are 
not by the same hand, yet they are so far homo 
geneous that in considering them as a literary in 
fluence, one is not inclined to quarrel with the 
classification that unites them under a single name. 
For the present purpose, therefore, no time need 
be spent in the discussion of their authorship or 
exact date, but we may turn at once to look for 
their appearance as agents in the development of 
the modern, serious drama. In this relation it is 
hardly possible to overestimate their determining 
influence throughout Europe. Perhaps it may 
have been owing to the closer racial bond between 
the Romans and the French that while the Sene- 
can influence upon the drama in France was so 
overmastering and tyrannical, in England the 


native spirit was stronger to resist it, and the 
English drama at its best remained distinctively 
English, the influence exercised over it by the 
Senecan tragedies being rather formative than 

Before the time of Marlowe and Shakespeare 
the forces that determined the development of 
the serious drama in England were practically 
twofold : one native, emanating from the morali 
ties and miracle plays ; the other classic, and found 
in the tragedies long ascribed to Seneca. These 
remnants of the Roman drama were known to the 
English at a very early date, were valued by the 
learned as the embodiment of what was best in 
ancient art and thought, and were studied in the 
Latin originals by pupils in the schools even 
while the schools were still wholly monastic. 
During the latter half of the sixteenth century, 
separate plays of Seneca were translated into Eng 
lish by various authors, and in 1581 Thomas 
Newton collected these translations into one 
volume, under the title of " Seneca his Ten 
Tragedies, Translated into English." After an 
examination of these translations one can readily 
understand why Elizabeth felt the need of an 
English translation of the Latin favorite, and her 
self essayed to turn them into English verse. In 
1702 Sir Edward Sherburne published transla 
tions of three of the plays, but the edition of 1581 
still remains the only complete English transla 
tion. From the edition of 1581 I quote a part 

Introduction xi 

of the translation of the beautiful lines on the 
future life, Troades, Act II., Scene iv. : 

" May this be true, or doth the Fable fayne, 

When corps is deade the Sprite to live as yet ? 

When Death our eies with heavy hand doth strain, 
And fatall day our leames of light hath shet, 

And in the Tombe our ashes once be sat, 
Hath not the soule likewyse his funerall, 

But stil (alas) do wretches live in thrall ? 

" Or els doth all at once togeather die ? 

And may no part his fatal howre delay, 
But with the breath the Soule from hence doth flie? 

And eke the Cloudes to vanish quite awaye, 
As danky shade fleeth from the poale by day ? 

And may no iote escape from desteny, 
When once the brand hath burned the body? " 

In Sherburne s translation of 1702 the same 
lines are rendered as follows : 

" Is it a Truth ? or Fiction blinds 

Our fearful Minds ? 
That when to Earth we Bodies give, 

Souls yet do live ? 
That when the Wife hath clos d with Cries 

The Husband s Eyes, 
When the last fatal Day of Light, 

Hath spoil d our Sight 
And when to Dust and Ashes turn d 

Our Bones are urn d ; 
Souls stand yet in nead at all 

Of Funeral, 
But that a longer Life with Pain 

They still retain ? 
Or dye we quite ? Nor ought we have 

Survives the Grave ? 
When like to Smoake immixed with skies, 

The Spirit flies, 
And Funeral Tapers are apply d 

To th naked Side, 
Whatere Sol rising does disclose 

Or setting shows," etc. 

xii Introduction 

It is also interesting to compare Sherburne s 
version with the earlier one in the famous passage 
which closes the chorus at the end of the second 
act of the Medea ; Newton s edition gives the 
lines as follows : 

" Now seas controulde doe suffer passage free, 

The Argo proude erected by the hand 
Of Pallas first, doth not complayne that shee, 

Conveyde hath back, the kynges unto theyr land. 
Eche whirry boate now scuddes about the deepe 

All stynts and warres are taken cleane away, 
The Cities frame new walles themselves to keepe. 

The open worlde lettes nought rest where it lay ; 
The Hoyes of Ind Arexis lukewarme leake, 

The Persians stout in Rhene and Albis streame 
Doth bath their Barkes, time shall in fine outbreake 

When Ocean wave shall open every Realme, 
The Wandering World at Will shall open lye, 

And Typhis will some newe founde Land survay 
Some travelers shall the Countreys farre escrye, 

Beyonde small Thule, knowen furthest at this day. * 

As given by Sherburne these lines are : 

" The passive Main 

Now yields, and does all Laws sustain, 
Nor the fam d Argo, by the hand 
Of Pallas built, by Heroes mann d, 
Does now alone complain she s forc d 
To Sea ; each petty Boat s now cours d 
About the Deep ; no Boundure stands, 
New Walls by Towns in foreign Lands 
Are rais d ; the pervious World in ts old 
Place, leaves nothing. Indians the cold 
Araxis drink, Albis, and Rhine the Persians, 
Th Age shall come, in fine 
Of many years, wherein the Main 
M unloose the universal Chain; 
And mighty Tracts of Land be shown, 
To Search of Elder Days unknown, 
New Worlds by some new Typhys found, 
Nor Thule be Earth s farthest Bound." 

Introduction xiii 

That the influence of Seneca s plays upon the 
English stage came very directly may be seen from 
the facts known concerning their long popularity, 
and the consideration in which they were held as 
literature, whether in the original or in translation. 
But their influence was exerted not only by direct 
means ; the revival of learning in Europe brought 
with it a general revival of the Latin influence, 
and England in borrowing from Italy and France 
borrowed indirectly from Rome. Among the 
English translations made in the time of Eliza 
beth from French and Italian authors, we find 
the names of dramas modelled closely after Seneca, 
and intended in their English dress for presenta 
tion on the English stage ; thus indirectly also 
was Senecan style and thought perpetuated in the 
English drama. 



IT would hardly be possible to find a stronger 
contrast than that between these Senecan tragedies 
and the early English drama as it existed in 
moralities and miracle plays before the classic 
influence made itself felt. With perhaps the 
single exception of "The Sacrifice of Isaac," 
which in its touching simplicity is truly dramatic, 
the moralities and miracle plays are little more 
than vivid narrative in which events of equal 

xiv Introduction 

magnitude follow one another in epic profusion; 
the classic unities of time and place are unknown, 
and, so far as unity of action is observed, it is 
epic unity rather than dramatic. The characters 
are little more than puppets that pass across the 
stage, moved by no single inward spring of action, 
but determined in their movements by outward 
forces or temporary emotions. 

In contradistinction to this epic profusion of 
inchoate external action, we find the authors of 
the Senecan tragedies choosing for their material 
only the closing portion of the myth which is 
the basis of their drama, and centring the little 
action they admit around the crisis of a soul s 
life, the real subject of their drama being some 
spiritual conflict. This introspectiveness, this 
interest in spiritual problems and soul processes, 
we find in the English drama only after it has 
come under the Senecan influence, and it is found 
in its most exaggerated form in those dramas 
which are most closely modelled after the Sene 
can pattern. While the first effect of this influ 
ence was to lessen the dramatic interest, it is only 
as the interest in the spiritual life is added to the 
wealth of external action that the English drama 
finds any true principle of dramatic unity. How 
far the stirrings of the Reformation aided in the 
development of this interest in soul problems is a 
question that the student of dramatic literature 
cannot ignore, but which is outside the present 

Introduction xv 

The consciousness of the importance to dra 
matic art of an inner spiritual theme as a central 
formative principle led to the nicer differentiation 
of character, to the evolution of true dramatic 
personages from the puppets of the earlier drama, 
through a deeper inquiry into the inward springs 
of action. 

The centralizing of the visible presentation 
around a spiritual theme brought about several 
secondary changes in English drama. The nar 
rowing of the field of action necessitated the 
description of past and passing actions, which, 
though not admitted on the stage, were necessary 
to the understanding of the drama ; this led to 
the introduction of the stock character of mes 
senger and of the long descriptive monologues so 
familiar in the classic drama. The widening of 
the interest in the spiritual conflict necessitated 
the objectifying of that conflict, and led to the 
introduction of the stock character of confidant, 
also well known to the Greek and Roman drama, 
and to the further introduction of long and pas 
sionate soliloquy. 

This influence exercised by the Senecan trage 
dies on the material of the English drama had its 
counterpart in an influence on the outward form, 
an influence no less dominant and abiding. The 
tragedies of Seneca are divided, without regard 
to their true organic structure, into five acts ; 
these acts are separated by choruses, that bear 
much the same relation to the acts they separate 

xvi Introduction 

as does the orchestral interlude of to-day that is, 
no real relation ; such hard-and-fast division into 
five parts by choruses unconnected with the action 
is unknown to the Greek drama. The acts are 
again divided into scenes, this sub-division being 
dependent on the exits and entrances of the dra 
matis persons, every exit and entrance necessi 
tating a new scene. 

The early imitators of Seneca copied their model 
closely in the arrangement of acts and scenes, and 
with them, as with Seneca, chorus and act division 
are wholly unconnected with the action of the 
drama ; " Gorboduc," " Tancred and Gismunda," 
and " The Misfortunes of Arthur/ are the earliest 
and most faithful English copies of the Latin 
model. In the Shakespearian drama the adher 
ence to this classic form is less rigid, and the play 
wright adds or omits the choruses at will : in 
" Henry Fifth," the chorus not only separates the 
acts, as in Seneca, but also speaks the prologue ; 
in " Pericles," where Gower speaks the prologue 
and act interludes, there is also added a lyrical 
monologue by the same speaker at the opening 
of the fourth scene of Act IV. ; while in " The 
Winter s Tale " the use of a chorus has dwindled 
to a single monologue spoken by Time at the 
opening of Act IV. 

In the later development of the five-act divi 
sion the chorus falls away, and the act division 
becomes not formal but organic, and coincides with 
the structural divisions of introduction, rising 

Introduction xvii 

action, climax, falling action, and catastrophe ; 
this has now become the rule for the form of the 
modern serious drama. 

Besides the centralization of the external action 
around an inner spiritual theme and the fixing of 
the structural form, other less fundamental results 
of the Senecan influence are evident in the sixteenth 
and seventeenth century English drama. The 
Senecan tragedies belong to the age of the Julian 
successors of Tiberius, an age when reason had 
lost its control, when changes were wrought by 
intrigue, cunning, and brute force ; when vicissi 
tudes of fortune and enormities of conduct were 
witnessed with the same curiosity which is excited 
by a fascinating drama, and with something of the 
same apathy, even when the spectator himself was 
concerned in the exhibition. The effect of this 
upon the Senecan tragedy was to expand the 
limits of what the dramatic proprieties permitted 
to be represented on the stage, to give in place of 
dramatic action brilliant and lurid rhetoric only, 
and to replace a true philosophy by a stoic fatal 

The tragic and lurid realism of action and 
description which especially differentiate Seneca 
from the Greeks found its way into England by 
a double stream ; that is, not only directly from 
his dramas, but also through the channel of con 
temporary Italian tragedy, a tragedy which Klein 
in his " Geschichte des Dramas " describes as a 
horrible caricature of the Senecan tragedy, where 

xviii Introduction 

the pity and fear of the Greeks are turned to 
shuddering horror and crocodile tears. The re 
sult is seen in the riot of bloodshed and lust of 
the so-called tragedy of blood. What Mr. J. A. 
Symonds says of Marlowe s cc Tamberlane " is 
true of this entire school : " Blood flows in rivers, 
shrieks, and groans, and curses mingle with hea 
ven-defying menaces and ranting vaunts. The 
action is one tissue of violence and horror." Even 
Shakespeare reflects this influence, and in " Ham 
let," " Lear," and " Macbeth," we still find this 
bloody and sensational tendency, though it is puri 
fied of its worst extravagances. 

We have spoken of the two characters of 
messenger and confidant which modern drama 
owes to the nobler Senecan influence ; it is to the 
less admirable influence of his sensational real 
ism that we owe the introduction of supernatural 
agencies, of witches, ghosts, and apparitions ; 
these are often little more than stage machin 
ery : in Shakespeare, however, we find them 
transmuted into powerful adjuncts to the dra 
matic effect ; compare the ghost of Tybalt, that 
appears to Juliet when she takes the sleeping po 
tion, with that of Medea s brother, that appears 
to Medea in the last act of the Senecan tragedy 
of that name ; note, too, the use of the ghost in 
" Macbeth," in " Julius Caesar," and in " Ham 

The stoic fatalism which runs like a dark thread 
through these tragedies of blood is, in the English 

Introduction xix 

as in the Senecan tragedy, the natural concomitant 
of all this sensational horror, and is evident in the 
texture of the dramas and the character of the 
personages, and in original as well as in quoted 



WE need give but little space to remarks upon 
the extent to which English dramatists borrowed 
directly from the Roman tragedies, for such bor 
rowings were of far less moment in the evolution 
of the modern drama than the more fundamental 
imitation of form and structure already noted ; 
their chief interest indeed lies outside the scope 
of dramatic study, and is to be found in the fact 
that they serve to mark English sympathy for 
certain phases of Roman thought. 

The adornment of new tragedies by portions 
borrowed from Seneca calls into use most fre 
quently the phrases which are the expression of a 
dark and hopeless philosophy. The fatalism 
referred to in preceding lines as characterizing the 
Elizabethan tragedies of blood had a strong hold 
upon the English mind from a much earlier date. 
One need not wonder that the thought which 
colored so early a poem as Beowulf, and which 
came to the surface in the conscious philosophy 
of a later time to reenter literature in the works 
of Alexander Pope, should have attracted the 

xx Introduction 

attention of Englishmen of the sixteenth century 
when they found it in a writer of such literary 
prestige and philosophic renown as Seneca. 

A careful reader of Seneca will recognize the 
borrowings of English dramatists the more readily 
as such borrowings follow closely not only the 
thought but the language of the original. 

Mr. John W. Cunliffe, in his monograph on 
" The Influence of Seneca on English Tragedy," 
has given a careful and detailed comparison with 
their originals of Senecan passages in " The Mis 
fortunes of Arthur." In a less detailed way he 
indicates the borrowings of other English authors ; 
on pages 25, 26 of his book we find : 

" Seneca had written in the c Agamemnon/ 
1 Per scelera semper sceleribus tutum est iter/ 

This is translated by Studley : 

The safest path to mischiefe is by mischiefe open 

Thomas Hughes has it, in c The Misfortunes of 
Arthur/ I. 4 : 

4 The safest passage is from bad to worse. 

Marston, in c The Malcontent/ V. 2 : 
c Black deed only through black deed safely flies. 

Shakespeare, in Macbeth/ III. 2 : 

4 Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill. 

Introduction xxi 

Jonson, in c Catiline, 1.2: 

The ills that I have done cannot be safe 
But by attempting greater. 

Webster, in c The White Devil/ II. i : 
c Small mischiefs are by greater made secure. 

Lastly, in Massinger s c Duke of Milan, II. i, 
Francisca says : 

c All my plots 

Turn back upon myself, but I am in, 
And must go on ; and since I have put off 
From the shore of innocence, guilt be now my pilot ! 
Revenge first wrought me; murder s his twin brother: 
One deadly sin then help me cure another. " 

On page 78 he quotes the following also from 
" Richard Third," IV. 2: 

" Uncertain way of gain ! But I am in 
So far in blood that sin will pluck on sin." 

The student will surmise that phrases of Seneca 
can be traced through much of English tragedy, 
and that a careful reader is likely to have little 
difficulty in bringing together passages inspired 
by the Roman tragedies. 

A full comparative study of the structural 
form of the Senecan and of the early English 
regular drama will be found in Rudolf Fischer s 
" Kunstentwicklung der Englische Tragodie." 
Symonds in his " Shakespeare s Predecessors," 

xxii Introduction 

and Klein in his " Geschichte des Dramas," also 
touch on the debt of the modern drama to the 
Roman tragedies. 

In the translations that follow, I have endea 
vored without doing violence to English idioms 
to give a strictly literal translation of the Latin 
originals, using as my text the edition of F. Leo. 
I wish to express my indebtedness to Prof. Albert 
S. Cook, and to Drs. Elisabeth Woodbridge and 
M. Anstice Harris, for criticism of the translation, 
not only with reference to its fidelity to the origi 
nal, but also with regard to its English dress. 









SCENE Corinth. 




Medea [alone] . Ye gods of marriage ; 
Lucina, guardian of the genial bed ; 
Pallas, who taught the tamer of the seas 
To steer the Argo ; stormy ocean s lord ; 
Titan, dividing bright day to the world ; 5 

And thou three-formed Hecate, who dost shed 
Thy conscious splendor on the hidden rites ! 
Ye by whom Jason plighted me his troth ; 
And ye Medea rather should invoke : 
Chaos of night eternal ; realm opposed 10 

To the celestial powers ; abandoned souls ; 
Queen of the dusky realm ; Persephone 
By better faith betrayed ; you I invoke, 
But with no happy voice. Approach, approach, 
Avenging goddesses with snaky hair, 15 

Holding in blood-stained hands your sulphurous 

torch ! 

Come now as horrible as when of yore 
Ye stood beside my marriage-bed ; bring death 
To the new bride, and to the royal seed, 
And Creon ; worse for Jason I would ask 20 

4 Seneca Act I 

Life ! Let him roam in fear through unknown 


An exile, hated, poor, without a home ; 
A guest now too well known, let him, in vain, 
Seek alien doors, and long for me, his wife ! 
And, yet a last revenge, let him beget 25 

Sons like their father, daughters like their mother ! 
Tis done ; revenge is even now brought forth 
I have borne sons to Jason. I complain 
Vainly, and cry aloud with useless words, 
Why do I not attack mine enemies ? 30 

I will strike down the torches from their hands, 
The light from heaven, Does the sun see this, 
The author of our race, and still give light ? 
And, sitting in his chariot, does he still 
Run through the accustomed spaces of the sky, 35 
Nor turn again to seek his rising place, 
And measure back the day ? Give me the reins ; 
Father, let me in thy paternal car 
Be borne aloft the winds, and let me curb 
With glowing bridle those thy fiery steeds ! 4 
Burn Corinth; let the parted seas be joined! 
This still remains for me to carry up 
The marriage torches to the bridal room, 
And, after sacrificial prayers, to slay 
The victims on their altars. Seek, my soul 45 
If thou still livest, or if aught endures 
Of ancient vigor seek to find revenge 
Through thine own bowels ; throw off woman s 

Intrench thyself in snowy Caucasus. 

Scene II Medea 

All impious deeds Phasis or Pontus saw, 50 

Corinth shall see. Evils unknown and wild, 
Hideous, frightful both to earth and heaven, 
Disturb my soul, wounds, and the scattered 


And murder. I remember gentle deeds, 
A maid did these ; let heavier anguish come, 55 
Since sterner crimes befit me now, a wife ! 
Gird thee with wrath, prepare thine utmost rage, 
That fame of thy divorce may spread as far 
As of thy marriage ! Make no long delay. 
How dost thou leave thy husband ? As thou 

cam st. 60 

Homes crime built up, by crime must be dissolved. 


Enter Chorus of Corinthian women, singing the marriage 
song of Jason and Creusa. 

Chorus. Be present at the royal marriage feast, 
Ye gods who sway the scepter of the deep, 
And ye who hold dominion in the heavens ; 
With the glad people come, ye smiling gods ! 65 
First to the scepter-bearing thunderers 
The white-backed bull shall stoop his lofty head; 
The snowy heifer, knowing not the yoke, 
Is due to fair Lucina ; and to her 
Who stays the bloody hand of Mars, and gives 7 
To warring nations peace, who in her horn 
Holds plenty, sacrifice a victim wild. 

6 Seneca Act I 

Thou who at lawful bridals dost preside. 
Scattering darkness with thy happy hands. 
Come hither with slow step, dizzy with wine, 75 
Binding thy temples with a rosy crown. 
Thou star that bringest in the day and night, 
Slow-rising on the lover, ardently 
For thy clear shining maids and matrons long. 
In comeliness the virgin bride excels 80 

The Athenian women, and the strong-limbed 


Of Sparta s unwalled town, who on the top 
Of high Taygetus try youthful sports ; 
Or those who in the clear Aonian stream, 
Or in Alpheus sacred waters bathe. 85 

The child of the wild thunder, he who tames 
And fits the yoke to tigers, is less fair 
Than the Ausonian prince. The glorious god 
Who moves the tripod, Dian s brother mild ; 
The skillful boxer Pollux ; Castor, too, 9 

Must yield the palm to Jason. O ye gods 
Who dwell in heaven, ever may the bride 
Surpass all women, he excel all men ! 
Before her beauty in the women s choir 
The beauty of the other maids grows dim ; 95 
So with the sunrise pales the light of stars, 
So when the moon with brightness not her 


Fills out her crescent horns, the Pleiads fade. 
Her cheeks blush like white cloth neath Tyrian 

Or as the shepherd sees the light of stars 100 

Scene II Medea 

Grow rosy with the dawn. O happy one, 
Accustomed once to clasp unwillingly 
A wife unloved and reckless, snatched away 
From that dread Colchian marriage, take thy 


The ^Eolian virgin tis her father s will. 105 
Bright offspring of the thyrsus-bearing god, 
The time has come to light the torch of pine; 
With ringers dripping wine put out the fires, 
Sound the gay music of the marriage song, 
Let the crowd pass their jests ; tis only she no 
Who flies her home to wed a stranger guest, 
Need steal away into the silent dark. 


Medea, Nurse. 

Medea. Alas, the wedding chorus strikes my 

ears ; 

Now let me die ! I could not hitherto 
Believe can hardly yet believe such wrong. "5 
And this is Jason s deed? Of father, home. 
And kingdom reft, can he desert me now, 
Alone and in a foreign land ? Can he 
Despise my worth who saw the flames and seas 
By my art conquered ? thinks, perchance, all 

crime 120 

Exhausted ! Tossed by every wave of doubt, 
I am distracted, seeking some revenge. 
Had he a brother s love he has a bride ; 
Through her be thrust the steel! Is this enough? 
If Grecian or barbarian cities know 125 

Crime that this hand knows not, that crime be 

done ! 

Thy sins return to mind exhorting thee : 
The far-famed treasure of a kingdom lost ; 
Thy little comrade, wicked maid, destroyed, 
Torn limb from limb and scattered on the sea 13 
An offering to his father ; Pelias old 
Killed in the boiling cauldron. I have shed 

Scene I Medea 

Blood often basely, but alas ! alas ! 
Twas not in wrath, unhappy love did all ! 
Had Jason any choice, by foreign law 135 

And foreign power constrained? He could have 


His breast to feel the sword. O bitter grief, 
Speak milder, milder words. Let Jason live ; 
Mine as he was, if this be possible, 
But, if not mine, still let him live secure, 140 

To spare me still the memory of my gift ! 
The fault is Creon s ; he abuses power 
To annul our marriage, sever strongest ties, 
And tear the children from their mother s breast ; 
Let Creon pay the penalty he owes. 145 

I ll heap his home in ashes, the dark flame 
Shall reach Malea s dreaded cape, where ships 
Find passage only after long delay. 

Nurse. Be silent, I implore thee, hide thy pain 
Deep in thy bosom. He who quietly 150 

Bears grievous wounds, with patience, and a 


Unshaken, may find healing. Hidden wrath 
Finds strength, when open hatred loses hope 
Of vengeance. 

Medea. Light is grief that hides itself, 

And can take counsel. Great wrongs lie not 
hid. i5S 

I am resolved on action. 

Nurse. Foster-child, 

Restrain thy fury ; hardly art thou safe 
Though silent. 

io Seneca Act II 

Medea. Fortune tramples on the meek, 

But fears the brave. 

Nurse. This is no place to show 

That thou hast courage. 

Medea. It can never be 160 

That courage should be out of place. 

Nurse. To thee, 

In thy misfortune, hope points out no way. 

Medea. The man who cannot hope despairs 
of naught. 

Nurse. Colchis is far away, thy husband lost ; 
Of all thy riches nothing now remains. 165 

Medea. Medea now remains ! Here s land 

and sea, 
Fire and sword, god and the thunderbolt. 

Nurse. The king is to be feared. 

Medea. I claim a king 

For father. 

Nurse. Hast thou then no fear of arms ? 

Medea. I, who saw warriors spring from earth ? 

Nurse. Thou lt die ! 170 

Medea. I wish it. 

Nurse. Flee ! 

Medea. Nay, I repent of flight. 

Nurse. Thou art a mother. 

Medea. And thou seest by whom. 

Nurse. Wilt thou not fly ? 

Medea. I fly, but first revenge. 

Nurse. Vengeance may follow thee. 

Medea. I may, perchance, 

Find means to hinder it. 

Scene II Medea II 

Nurse. Restrain thyself 175 

And cease to threaten madly ; it is well 
That thou adjust thyself to fortune s change. 

Medea. My riches, not my spirit, fortune 


The hinge creaks, who is this ? Creon himself, 
Swelling with Grecian pride. 180 

Creon with Attendants, Medea. 

Creon. What, is Medea of the hated race 
Of Colchian ^etes, not yet gone ? 
Still she is plotting evil ; well I know 
Her guile, and well I know her cruel hand. 
Whom does she spare, or whom let rest secure ? 185 
Verily I had thought to cut her off 
With the swift sword, but Jason s prayers availed 
To spare her life. She may go forth unharmed 
If she will set our city free from fear. 
Threatening and fierce, she seeks to speak with 
us ; 190 

Attendants, keep her off, bid her be still, 
And let her learn at last, a king s commands 
Must be obeyed. Go, haste, and take her hence. 

Medea. What fault is punished by my banish 
ment ? 

Creon. A woman, innocent, may ask, ( What 
fault ? 195 

Medea. If thou wilt judge, examine. 

12 Seneca Act II 

Creon. Kings command. 

Just or unjust, a king must be obeyed. 

Medea. An unjust kingdom never long en 

Creon. Go hence ! Seek Colchis ! 

Medea. Willingly I go ; 

Let him who brought me hither take me hence. 200 

Creon. Thy words come late, my edict has 
gone forth. 

Medea. The man who judges, one side still 

Were hardly a just judge, though he judge justly. 

Creon. Pelias for listening to thee died, but 

I may find time to hear so good a plea. 205 

Medea. How hard it is to calm a wrathful 


How he who takes the scepter in proud hands 
Deems his own will sufficient, I have learned ; 
Have learned it in my father s royal house. 
For though the sport of fortune, suppliant, 210 
Banished, alone, forsaken, on all sides 
Distressed, my father was a noble king. 
I am descended from the glorious sun. 
What lands the Phasis in its winding course 
Bathes, or the Euxine touches where the sea 215 
Is freshened by the water from the swamps, 
Or where armed maiden cohorts try their skill 
Beside Thermodon, all these lands are held 
Within my father s kingdom, where I dwelt 
Noble and happy and with princely power. 220 

Scene II Medea 

He whom kings seek, sought then to wed with me. 
Swift, fickle fortune cast me headlong forth, 
And gave me exile. Put thy trust in thrones 
Such trust as thou mayst put in what light chance 
Flings here and there at will ! Kings have one 

power, 225 

A matchless honor time can never take : 
To help the wretched, and to him who asks 
To give a safe retreat. This I have brought 
From Colchis, this at least I still can claim : 
I saved the flower of Grecian chivalry, 230 

Achaian chiefs, the offspring of the gods ; 
It is to me they owe their Orpheus 
Whose singing melted rocks and drew the trees ; 
Castor and Pollux are my twofold gift ; 
Boreas sons, and Lynceus whose sharp eye 235 
Could pierce beyond the Euxine, are my gift, 
And all the Argonauts. Of one alone, 
Fhe chief of chiefs, I do not speak; for him 
Thou owest me naught ; those have I saved for 


This one is mine. Rehearse, now, all my crime ; 240 
Accuse me ; I confess ; this is my fault 
I saved the Argo ! Had I heard the voice 
Of maiden modesty or filial love, 
Greece and her leaders had regretted it, 
And he, thy son-in-law, had fallen first 245 

A victim to the fire-belching bull. 
Let fortune trample on me as she will, 
My hand has succored princes, I am glad ! 
Assign the recompense for these my deeds, 

I4 Seneca Act II 

Condemn me if thou wilt, but tell the fault. 250 
Creon, I own my guilt guilt known to thee 
When first, a suppliant, I touched thy knees, ^ 
And asked with outstretched hands protecting 


Again I ask a refuge, some poor spot 
For misery to hide in ; grant a place 
Withdrawn, a safe asylum in thy realm, 
If I must leave the city. 

Creon. I am no prince who rules with cruel 


Or tramples on the wretched with proud foot. 
Have I not shown this true by choosing him 260 
To be my son-in-law who is a man 
Exiled, without resource, in fear of foes ? 
One whom Acastus, king of Thessaly, 
Seeks to destroy, that so he may avenge 
A father weak with age, bowed down with years, 265 
Whose limbs were torn asunder? That foul 


His wicked sisters impiously dared 
Tempted by thee ; if thou wouldst say the deed 
Was Jason s, he can prove his innocence ; 
No guiltless blood has stained him, and his 

Touched not the sword, are yet unstained by 


Foul instigator of all evil deeds, 
With woman s wantonness in daring aught. 
And man s courageous heart and void of 

Scene II Medea 



Go, purge our kingdom ; take thy deadly herbs 275 
*ree us from fear; dwelling in other lands 
Afar, invoke the gods. 

^ M edea. Thou bidst me go ? 

Give back the ship and comrade of my flio-ht 
Why bid me go alone ? Not so I came. * 
If thou fear war, both should go forth, nor choice 
Be made between two equally at fault 
That old man fell for Jason s sake ; impute 
I o Jason flight, rapine, a brother slain, 
And a deserted father ; not all mine 
The crimes to which a husband tempted me 285 
lis true I sinned, but never for myself. 

Creon. f Thou shouldst begone, why waste the 
time with words ? 

Medea. I go, but going make one last request : 
Let not a mother s guilt drag down her sons 

Cram Go as a father I will succor them, 290 
And with a father s care. 

By future hopes, 

By the king s happy marriage, by the strength 
Of thrones, which fickle fortune sometimes shakes 
1 pray thee grant the exile some delay 
That she, perchance about to die, may press 295 
A last kiss on her children s lips. 

Creon. TI 

T; . 1 nou seekst 

ime to commit new crime. 

J dea : In so brief time 

What crime were possible ? 

P C 7? ;/ No time too short 

or him who would do ill. 

X 6 Seneca Act n 

Medea. Dost thou deny 

To misery short space for tears ? 

Creon. Deep dread 30 

Warns me against thy prayer ; yet I will grant 
One day in which thou mayst prepare for flight. 

Medea. Too great the favor ! Of the time 

Something withdraw. I would depart in haste. 

Creon. Before the coming day is ushered in 35 
By Phoebus, leave the city or thou diest. 
The bridal calls me, and I go to pay 
My vows to Hymen. 


Chorus. He rashly ventured who was first to 


In his frail boat a pathway through the deep ; 310 
Who saw his native land behind him fade 
In distance blue ; who to the raging winds 
Trusted his life, his slender keel between 
The paths of life and death. Our fathers dwelt 
In an unspotted age, and on the shore 
Where each was born he lived in quietness, 
Grew old upon his father s farm content ; 
With little rich, he knew no other wealth 
Than his own land afforded. None knew yet 
The changing constellations, nor could use 
As guides the stars that paint the ether; none 
Had learned to shun the rainy Hyades, 

Scene III Medea 17 

The Goat, or Northern Wain, that follows slow 

By old Bootes driven ; none had yet 

To Boreas or Zephyr given names. 3 2 5 

Rash Tiphys was the first to tempt the deep 

With spreading canvas ; for the winds to write 

New laws ; to furl the sail ; or spread it wide 

When sailors longed to fly before the gale, 

And the red topsail fluttered in the breeze. 33 

The world so wisely severed by the seas 

The pine of Thessaly united, bade 

The distant waters bring us unknown fears. 

The cursed leader paid hard penalty 

When the two cliffs, the gateway of the sea, 335 

Moved as though smitten by the thunderbolt, 

And the imprisoned waters smote the stars. 

Bold Tiphys paled, and from his trembling hand 

Let fall the rudder; Orpheus music died, 

His lyre untouched ; the Argo lost her voice. 340 

When, belted by her girdle of wild dogs, 

The maid of the Sicilian straits gives voice 

From all her mouths, who fears not at her bark ? 

Who does not tremble at the witching song 

With which the Sirens calm the Ausonian sea ? 345 

The Thracian Orpheus lyre had almost forced 

Those hinderers of ships to follow him ! 

What was the journey s prize ? The golden fleece, 

Medea, fiercer than the raging sea, 

Worthy reward for those first mariners ! 350 

The sea forgets its former wrath ; submits 

To the new laws ; and not alone the ship 

Minerva builded, manned by sons of kings, 

1 8 Seneca Act II 

Finds rowers ; other ships may sail the deep. 
Old metes are moved, new city walls spring up 355 
On distant soil, and nothing now remains 
As it has been. The cold Araxes stream 
The Indian drinks ; the Persian quaffs the Rhine ; 
And the times come with the slow-rolling years 
When ocean shall strike off the chains from 
earth, 360 

And a great world be opened. Tiphys then, 
Another Tiphys, shall win other lands, 
And Thule cease to be earth s utmost bound. 



Medea, Nurse. 

Nurse. Stay, foster-child, why fly so swiftly 

hence ? 

Restrain thy wrath ! curb thy impetuous haste ! 365 
As a Bacchante, frantic with the god 
And filled with rage divine, uncertain walks 
The top of snowy Pindus or the peak 
Of Nyssa, so Medea wildly goes 
Hither and thither ; on her cheek the stain 370 
Of bitter tears, her visage flushed, her breast 
Shaken by sobs. She cries aloud, her eyes 
Are drowned in scalding tears ; again she laughs ; 
All passions surge within her soul ; she stays 
Her steps, she threatens, makes complaint, weeps, 

groans. 375 

Where will she fling the burden of her soul ? 
Where wreak her vengeance ? where will break 

this wave 

Of fury ? Passion overflows ! she plans 
No easy crime, no ordinary deed. 
She conquers self; I recognize old signs 380 

Of raging ; something terrible she plans, 
Some deed inhuman, devilish, and wild. 
Ye gods, avert the horrors I foresee ! 


2O Seneca Act III 

Medea. Dost thou seek how to show thy hate, 

poor wretch ? 

Imitate love ! And must I then endure 385 

Without revenge the royal marriage-torch ? 
Shall this day prove unfruitful, sought and gained 
Only by earnest effort ? While the earth 
Hangs free within the heavens ; while the vault 
Of heaven sweeps round the earth with change 
less change ; 390 
While the sands lie unnumbered ; while the 


Follows the sun, the night brings up the stars ; 
Arcturus never wet in ocean s wave 
Rolls round the pole ; while rivers seaward flow, 
My hate shall never cease to seek revenge. 395 
Did ever fierceness of a ravening beast ; 
Or Scylla or Charybdis sucking down 
The waters of the wild Ausonian 
And the Sicilian seas ; or ^Etna fierce, 
That holds imprisoned great Enceladus 400 

Breathing forth flame, so glow as I with threats? 
Not the swift rivers, nor the force of flame 
By storm-wind fanned, can imitate my wrath. 
I will o erthrow and bring to naught the world ! 
Does Jason fear the king ? Thessalian war ? 405 
True love fears nothing. He was forced to 


Unwillingly he gave his hand. But still 
He might have sought his wife for one farewell. 
This too he feared to do. He might have gained 
From Creon some delay of banishment. 4 10 

Scene II Medea 11 

One day is granted for my two sons sake ! 
I do not make complaint of too short time, 
It is enough for much ; this day shall see 
What none shall ever hide. I will attack 
The very gods, and shake the universe ! 415 

Nurse. Lady, thy spirit so disturbed by ills 
Restrain, and let thy storm-tossed soul find rest. 

Medea. Rest I can never find until I see 
All dragged with me to ruin ; all shall fall 
When I do ; so to share one s woe is joy. 420 

Nurse. Think what thou hast to fear if thou 

No one can safely fight with princely power. 

The Nurse withdraws ; enter "Jason* 

Jason. The lot is ever hard ; bitter is fate, 
Equally bitter if it slay or spare ; 
God gives us remedies worse than our ills. 425 
Would I keep faith with her I deem my wife 
I must expect to die ; would I shun death 
I must forswear myself. Not fear of death 
Has conquered honor, love has cast out fear 
In that the father s death involves the sons. 43 

holy Justice, if thou dwell in heaven, 

1 call on thee to witness that the sons 
Vanquish their father ! Say the mother s love 

Is fierce and spurns the yoke, she still will deem 
Her children of more worth than marriage joys. 435 

22 Seneca Act III 

My mind is fixed, I go to her with prayers. 
She starts at sight of me, her look grows wild, 
Hatred she shows and grief. 

Medea. Jason, I flee ! 

I flee, it is not new to change my home, 
The cause of banishment alone is new ; 440 

I have been exiled hitherto for thee. 
I go, as thou compellst me, from thy home, 
But whither shall I go ? Shall I, perhaps, 
Seek Phasis, Colchis, and my father s realm 
Whose soil is watered by a brother s blood? 445 
What land dost thou command me seek ? what 

sea ? 

The Euxine s jaws through which I led that band 
Of noble princes when I followed thee, 
Adulterer, through the Symplegades ? 
Little lolchos ? Tempe ? Thessaly ? 45 

Whatever way I opened up for thee 
I closed against myself. Where shall I go ? 
Thou drivest into exile, but hast given 
No place of banishment. I will go hence. 
The king, Creusa s father, bids me go, 455 

And I will do his bidding. Heap on me 
Most dreadful punishment, it is my due. 
With cruel penalties let royal wrath 
Pursue thy mistress, load my hands with chains, 
And in a dungeon of eternal night 4 6 

Imprison me tis less than I deserve! 
Ungrateful one, recall the fiery bull ; 
The earth-born soldiers, who at my command 
Slew one another; and the golden fleece 

Scene II Medea 23 

Of Phrixus ram, whose watchful guardian, 465 
The sleepless dragon, at my bidding slept ; 
The brother slain ; the many, many crimes 
In one crime gathered. Think how, led by me, 
By me deceived, that old man s daughters dared 
To slay their aged father, dead for aye ! 47 

By thy hearth s safety, by thy children s weal, 
By the slain dragon, by these blood-stained hands 
I never spared from doing aught for thee, 
By thy past fears, and by the sea and sky 
Witnesses of our marriage, pity me ! 475 

O happy one, give me some recompense ! 
Of all the ravished gold the Scythians brought 
From far, as far as India s burning plains, 
Wealth our wide palace hardly could contain, 
So that we hung our groves with gold, I took 480 
Nothing. My brother only bore I thence, 
And him for thee I sacrificed. I left 
My country, father, brother, maiden shame : 
This was my marriage portion ; give her own 
To her who goes an exile. 485 

Jason. When angry Creon thought to have 

thee slain, 
Urged by my prayers, he gave thee banishment. 

Medea. I looked for a reward ; the gift I see 
Is exile. 

Jason. While thou mayst fly, fly in haste ! 
The wrath of kings is ever hard to bear. 49 

Medea. Thou giv st me such advice because 

thou lov st 
Creusa, wouldst divorce a hated wife ! 

24 Seneca Act III 

Jason. And does Medea taunt me with my 
loves ? 

Medea. More treacheries and murders. 

Jason. Canst thou charge 

Such sins to me ? 

Medea. All I have ever done. 495 

Jason. It only needs that I should share the 

Of these thy crimes ! 

Medea. Thine are they, thine alone ; 

He is the criminal who reaps the fruit. 
Though all should brand thy wife with infamy, 
Thou shouldst defend and call her innocent : 500 
She who has sinned for thee, toward thee is 

Jason. To me my life is an unwelcome gift 
Of which I am ashamed. 

Medea. Who is ashamed 

To owe his life to me can lay it down. 

Jason. For thy sons sake control thy fiery 
heart. 505 

Medea. I will have none of them, I cast them 


Abjure them ; shall Creusa to my sons 
Give brothers ? 

Jason. To an exile s wretched sons 

A mighty queen will give them. 

Medea. Never come 

That evil day that mingles a great race 510 

With race unworthy, Phoebus glorious sons 
With sons of Sisyphus. 

Scene II Medea 25 

Jason. What, cruel one, 

Wouldst thou drag both to banishment? Away ! 

Medea. Creon has heard my prayer. 

Jason. What can I do ? 

Medea. For me ? Some crime perhaps. 

Jason. A prince s wrath 515 

Is here and there. 

Medea. Medea s wrath more fierce ! 

Let us essay our power, the victor s prize 
Be Jason. 

Jason. Passion-weary, I depart ; 
Fear thou to trust a fate too often tried. 

Medea. Fortune has ever served me faithfully. 520 

Jason. Acastus comes. 

Medea. Creon s a nearer foe, 

But both shall fall. Medea does not ask 
That thou shouldst arm thyself against the king, 
Or soil thy hands with murder of thy kin ; 
Fly with me innocent. 

Jason. Who will oppose 525 

If double war ensue, and the two kings 
Join forces ? 

Medea. Add to them the Colchian troops 
And King ^Eetes, Scythian hosts and Greeks, 
Medea conquers them ! 

Jason. I greatly fear 

A scepter s power. 

Medea. Do not covet it. 530 

Jason. We must cut short our converse, lest 

it breed 

26 Seneca Act III 

Medea. Now from high Olympus send 
Thy thunder, Jupiter; stretch forth thy hand, 
Prepare thy lightning, from the riven clouds 
Make the world tremble, nor with careful hand 535 
Spare him or me; whichever of us dies 
Dies guilty ; thy avenging thunderbolt 
Cannot mistake the victim. 

Jason. Try to speak 

More sanely; calm thyself. If aught can aid 
Thy flight from Creon s house, thou needst but 
ask. 540 

Medea. My soul is strong enough, and wont 

to scorn 

The wealth of kings ; this boon alone I crave, 
To take my children with me when I go ; 
Into their bosoms I would shed my tears, 
New sons are thine. 

Jason. Would I might grant thy prayer ; 545 
Paternal love forbids me, Creon s self 
Could not compel me to it. They alone 
Lighten the sorrow of a grief-parched soul. 
For them I live, I sooner would resign 
Breath, members, light. 

Medea \_aside\ . Tis well ! He loves his sons, 55 
This, then, the place where he may feel a wound ! 
[To Jason.~\ Before I go, thou wilt, at least, permit 
That I should give my sons a last farewell, 
A last embrace ? But one thing more I ask : 
If in my grief I ve poured forth threatening 
words, 555 

Retain them not in mind ; let memory hold 

Scene III Medea 2J 

Only my softer speech, my words of wrath 

Jason. I have erased them all 
From my remembrance. I would counsel thee 
Be calm, act gently ; calmness quiets pain. 5 6 

[Exit Jason. 

Medea, Nurse. 

Medea. He s gone ! And can it be he leaves 

me so, 

Forgetting me and all my guilt ? Forgot ? 
Nay, never shall Medea be forgot ! 
Up ! Act ! Call all thy power to aid thee now ; 
This fruit of crime is thine, to shun no crime ! s 6 S 
Deceit is useless, so they fear my guile. 
Strike where they do not dream thou canst be 


Medea, haste, be bold to undertake 
The possible yea, that which is not so ! 
Thou, faithful nurse, companion of my griefs 57 
And varying fortunes, aid my wretched plans. 
I have a robe, gift of the heavenly powers, 
An ornament of a king s palace, given 
By Phcebus to my father as a pledge 
Of sonship ; and a necklace of wrought gold ; 575 
And a bright diadem, inlaid with gems, 
With which they used to bind my hair. These 

Endued with poison by my magic arts, 

28 Seneca Act III 

My sons shall carry for me to the bride. 
Pay vows to Hecate, bring the sacrifice, 580 

Set up the altars. Let the mounting flame 
Envelop all the house. 


Chorus. Fear not the power of flame, nor 

swelling gale, 

Nor hurtling dart, nor cloudy wain that brings 
The winter storms ; fear not when Danube 
sweeps 585 

Unchecked between its widely severed shores, 
Nor when the Rhone hastes seaward, and the 

Has broken up the snow upon the hills, 

And Hermes flows in rivers. 

A wife deserted, loving while she hates, 590 

Fear greatly ; blindly burns her anger s flame, 
For kings she cares not, will not bear the curb. 
Ye gods, we ask your grace divine for him 
Who safely crossed the seas ; the ocean s lord 
Is angry for his conquered kingdom s sake ; 595 

Spare Jason, we entreat ! 

Th impetuous youth who dared to drive the car 
Of Phcebus, keeping not the wonted course, 
Died in the furious fires himself had lit. 
Few are the evils of the well-known way ; 600 

Seek the old paths your fathers safely trod, 
The sacred federations of the world 

Keep still inviolate. 

Scene IV Medea 29 

The men who dipped the oars of that brave ship ; 
Who plundered of their shade the sacred groves 
Of Pelion ; passed between the unstable cliffs ; 
Endured so many hardships on the deep ; 
And cast their anchor on a savage coast. 
Passing again with ravished foreign gold, 
Atoned with fearful death upon the sea 610 

For violated law. 

The angry deep demanded punishment : 
Tiphys to an unskillful pilot left 
The rudder. On a foreign coast he fell, 
Far from his father s kingdom, and he lies 615 
With nameless shades, under a lowly tomb. 
Becalmed in her still harbor Aulis held 
The impatient ships, remembering in wrath 

The king that she lost thence. 
The fair Camena s son, who touched his lyre 620 
So sweetly that the floods stood still, the winds 
Were silent, and the birds forgot to sing, 
And forests followed him, on Thracian fields 
Lies dead, his head borne down by Hebrus stream. 
He touched again the Styx and Tartarus, 625 

But not again returns. 
Alcides overthrew the north wind s sons ; 
He slew that son of Neptune who could take 
Unnumbered forms ; but after he had made 
Peace between land and sea, and opened wide 630 
The realm of Dis, lying on CEta s top 
He gave his body to the cruel fire, 
Destroyed by his wife s gift the fatal robe 

Poisoned with Centaur s blood. 

30 Seneca Act III 

Ankaeus fell a victim to the boar 635 

Of Caledonia ; Meleager slew 

His mother s brother, stained his hands with 


Of his own mother. They have merited 
Their lot, but what the crime that he atoned 
By death whom Hercules long sought in vain 640 
The tender Hylas drawn beneath safe waves ? 
Go now, brave soldiers, boldly plow the main, 

But fear the gentle streams. 
Idmon the serpents buried in the sands 
Of Libya, though he knew the future well. 645 
Mopsus, to others true, false to himself, 
Fell far from Thebes ; and he who tried to burn 
The crafty Greeks fell headlong to the deep : 

Such death was meet for crime. 
Oileus, smitten by the thunderbolt, 650 

Died on the ocean ; and Pheraeus wife 
Fell for her husband, so averting fate ; 
He who commanded that the golden spoil 
Be carried to the ships had traveled far, 
But, plunged in seething cauldron, Pelias died 655 
In narrow limits. Tis enough, ye gods; 

Ye have avenged the sea ! 


Nurse. I shrink with horror ! Ruin threatens 


How terribly her wrath inflames itself! 

Her former force awakes, thus I have seen 660 

Medea raging and attacking god, 

Compelling heaven. Greater crime than then 

She now prepares, for as with frantic step 

She sought the sanctuary of her crimes, 

She poured forth all her threats ; and what before 665 

She feared she now brings forth ; lets loose a host 

Of poisonous evils, arts mysterious ; 

With sad left hand outstretched invokes all ills 

That Libyan sands with their fierce heat create, 

Or frost-bound Taurus with perpetual snow 670 

Encompasses. Drawn by her magic spell 

The serpent drags his heavy length along, 

Darts his forked tongue, and seeks his destined 

prey. ^ 

Hearing her incantation, he draws back 
And knots his swelling body coiling it. 675 
( They are but feeble poisons earth brings forth, 
And harmless darts, she says, ( heaven s ills I 


Now is the time for deeper sorcery. 


32 Seneca Act IV 

The dragon like a torrent shall descend, 
Whose mighty folds the Great and Lesser Bear 680 
Know well ; Ophiuchus shall loose his grasp 
And poison flow. Be present at my call. 
Python, who dared to fight twin deities. 
The Hydra slain by Hercules shall come 
Healed of his wound. Thou watchful Colchian 
one, 685 

Be present with the rest thou, who first slept 
Lulled by my incantations. When the brood 
Of serpents has been called she blends the juice 
Of poisonous herbs; all Eryx 7 pathless heights 
Bear, or the open top of Caucasus 690 

Wet with Prometheus blood, where winter reigns ; 
All that the rich Arabians use to tip 
Their poisoned shafts, or the light Parthians, 
Or warlike Medes; all the brave Suabians cull 
In the Hyrcanian forests in the north ; 695 

All poisons that the earth brings forth in spring 
When birds are nesting; or when winter cold 
lias torn away the beauty of the groves 
And bound the world in icy manacles. 
Whatever herb gives flower the cause of death, 7 
Or juice of twisted root, her hands have culled. 
These on Thessalian Athos grew, and those 
On mighty Pindus ; on Pangaeus height 
She cut the tender herbs with bloody scythe. 
These Tigris nurtured with its current deep, 75 
The Danube those ; Hydaspes rich in gems 
Flowing with current warm through levels dry, 
Baetis that gives its name to neighboring lands 

Scene II Medea 33 

And meets the western ocean languidly, 
Have nurtured these. Those have been cut at 
dawn ; 710 

These other herbs at dead of night were reaped ; 
And these were gathered with the enchanted hook. 
Death-dealing plants she chooses, wrings the blood 
Of serpents, and she takes ill-omened birds, 
The sad owl s heart, the quivering entrails cut 715 
From the horned owl living ; sorts all these. 
In some the eager force of flame is found, 
In some the bitter cold of sluggish ice ; 
To these she adds the venom of her words 
As greatly to be feared. She stamps her feet; 720 
She sings, and the world trembles at her song. 

Medea, before the altar of Hecate. 

Medea. Here I invoke you, silent company, 
Infernal gods, blind Chaos, sunless home 
Of shadowy Dis, and squalid caves of Death 
Bound by the banks of Tartarus. Lost souls, 725 
For this new bridal leave your wonted toil. 
Stand still, thou whirling wheel, Ixion touch 
Again firm ground ; come, Tantalus, and drink 
Unchecked the wave of the Pirenian fount. 
Let heavier punishment on Creon wait : 730 
Thou stone of Sisyphus, worn smooth, roll back ; 
And ye Danaides who strive in vain 
To fill your leaking jars, I need your aid. 

34 Seneca Act IV 

Come at my invocation, star of night. 

Endued with form most horrible, nor threat 735 

With single face, thou three-formed deity ! 

To thee, according to my country s use, 

With hair unfilleted and naked feet 

I ve trod the sacred groves ; called forth the rain 

From cloudless skies ; have driven back the sea ; 740 

And forced the ocean to withdraw its waves. 

Earth sees heaven s laws confused, the sun and 


Shining together, and the two Bears wet 
In the forbidden ocean. I have changed 
The circle of the seasons : at my word 745 

Earth flourishes with summer ; Ceres sees 
A winter harvest ; Phasis rushing stream 
Flows to its source ; the Danube that divides 
Into so many mouths restrains its flood 
Of waters hardly moving past its shores. 750 
The winds are silent ; but the waters speak, 
The wild seas roar ; the home of ancient groves 
Loses its leafy shade ; the day withdraws 
At my command ; the sun stands still in heaven. 
My incantations move the Hyades. 755 

It is thy hour, Diana ! 
For thee my bloody hands have wrought this 

Nine times by serpents girt ; those knotted 


Rebellious Typhon bore, who made revolt 
Against Jove s kingdom; Nessus gave this blood 76 
When dying ; CEta s funeral pyre provides 

Scene II Medea 35 

These ashes which have drunk the poisoned blood 
Of dying Hercules ; and here thou seest 
Althea s vengeful brand. The harpies left 
These feathers in the pathless den they made 765 
A refuge when they fled from Zete s wrath ; 
And these were dropped by the Stymphalian birds 
That felt the wound of arrows dipped in blood 
Of the Lernaean Hydra. 

The altars find a voice, the tripod moves 770 

Stirred by the favoring goddess. Her swift car 
I see approach not the full-orbed that rolls 
All night through heaven ; but as, with darkened 


Troubled by the Thessalians she comes, 
So her sad face upon rny altars sheds 775 

A murky light. Terrify with new dread 
The men of earth ! Costly Corinthian brass 
Sounds in thy honor, Hecate, and on ground 
Made red with blood I pay these solemn rites 
To thee ; for thee have stolen from the tomb 780 
This torch that gives its baleful funeral light ; 
To thee with bowed head I have made my prayer ; 
And in accordance with my country s use, 
My loose hair filleted, have plucked for thee 
This branch that grows beside the Stygian wave ; 785 
Like a wild Maenad, laying bare my breast, 
With sacred knife I cut for thee my arm ; 
My blood is on the altars ! Hand, learn well 
To strike thy dearest ! See, my blood flows forth ! 
Daughter of Perseus, have I asked too oft 790 
Thine aid ? Recall no more my former prayers. 

36 Seneca Act IV 

To-day as always I invoke thine aid 

For Jason s sake alone ! Endue this robe 

With such a baleful power that the bride 

May feel at its first touch consuming fire 795 

Of serpent s poison in her inmost veins ; 

Let fire lurk hid in the bright gold, the fire 

Prometheus gave and taught men how to store 

He now atones his daring theft from heaven 

With tortured vitals. Mulciber has given 800 

This flame, and I in sulphur nurtured it ; 

I brought a spark from the destroying fire 

Of Phaeton ; I have the flame breathed forth 

By the Chimaera, and the fire I snatched 

From Colchis savage bull; and mixed with these 805 

Medusa s venom. I have bade all serve 

My secret sorcery; now, Hecate, add 

The sting of poison, aid the seeds of flame 

Hid in my gift ; let them deceive the sight 

But burn the touch ; let the heat penetrate 810 

Her very heart and veins, stiffen her limbs, 

Consume her bones in smoke. Her burning hair 

Shall glow more brightly than the nuptial torch ! 

My vows are paid, and Hecate thrice has barked, 

And shaken fire from her funeral torch. 815 

Tis finished ! Call my sons. My precious 


Ye shall be borne by them to the new bride. 
Go, go, my sons, a hapless mother s sons! 
Placate with gifts and prayers your father s wife ! 
But come again with speed, that I may know 820 
A last embrace ! 

Scene III Medea 37 


Chorus. Where hastes the blood-stained Mae 
nad, headlong driven 

By angry love? What mischief plots her rage? 
With wrath her face grows rigid ; her proud 


She fiercely shakes ; threatens the king in wrath. 825 
Who would believe her exiled from the realm ? 
Her cheeks glow crimson, pallor puts to flight 
The red, no color lingers on her face ; 
Her steps are driven to and fro as when 
A tiger rages, of its young bereft, 830 

Beside the Ganges in the gloomy woods. 
Medea knows not how to curb her love 
Or hate. Now love and hate together rage. 
When will she leave the fair Pelasgian fields, 
The wicked Colchian one, and free from fear 835 
Our king and kingdom ? Drive with no slow rein 
Thy car, Diana ; let the sweet night hide 
The sunlight. Hesperus, end the dreaded day. 



^ Chorus. 

Messenger [enters in baste }. All are destroyed, 

the royal empire falls, 
Father and child lie in one funeral pyre. 840 

Chorus. Destroyed by what deceit ? 

Messenger. That which is wont 

To ruin princes gifts. 

Chorus. Could these work harm ? 

Messenger. I myself wonder, and can hardly 

The wrong accomplished, though I know it done. 

Chorus. How did it happen ? 

Messenger. A destructive fire 845 

Spreads everywhere as at command ; even now 
The city is in fear, the palace burned. 

Chorus. Let water quench the flames. 

Messenger. It will not these, 

As by a miracle floods feed the fire. 
The more we fight it so much more it glows. 850 

Medea, Nurse. 

Nurse. Up ! up ! Medea ! Swiftly flee the land 
Of Pelops ; seek in haste a distant shore. 

Scene II Medea 39 

Medea. Shall I fly ? I ? Were I already gone 
I would return for this, that I might see 
These new betrothals. Dost thou pause, my 

soul ? 855 

This joy s but the beginning of revenge. 
Thou dost but love if thou art satisfied 
To widow Jason. Seek new penalties, 
Honor is gone and maiden modesty, 
It were a light revenge pure hands could yield. 860 
Strengthen thy drooping spirit, stir up wrath, 
Drain from thy heart its all of ancient force, 
Thy deeds till now call honor ; wake, and act, 
That they may see how light, how little worth, 
All former crime the prelude of revenge ! 865 
What was there great my novice hands could dare? 
What was the madness of my girlhood days ? 
I am Medea now, through sorrow strong. 
Rejoice, because through thee thy brother died ; 
Rejoice, because through thee his limbs were 

torn, 870 

Through thee thy father lost the golden fleece ; 
Rejoice, that armed by thee his daughters slew 
Old Pelias ! Seek revenge ! No novice hand 
Thou bring st to crime; what wilt thou do; 

what dart 

Let fly against thy hated enemy ? 875 

I know not what my maddened spirit plots, 
Nor yet dare I confess it to myself! 
In folly I made haste would that my foe 
Had children by this other ! Mine are his, 
We ll say Creusa bore them ! Tis enough ; 880 

40 Seneca Act V 

Through them my heart at last finds full revenge ; 
My soul must be prepared for this last crime. 
Ye who were once my children, mine no more, 
Ye pay the forfeit for your father s crimes. 
Awe strikes my spirit and benumbs my hand ; 885 
My heart beats wildly ; mother-love drives out 
Hate of my husband; shall I shed their blood - 
My children s blood ? Demented one, rage not, 
Be far from thee this crime ! What guilt is theirs ? 
Is Jason not their father ? guilt enough ! 890 
And worse, Medea claims them as her sons. 
They are not sons of mine, so let them die ! 
Nay, rather let them perish since they are ! 
But they are innocent -my brother was! 
Fear st thou ? Do tears already mar thy cheek ? 895 
Do wrath and love like adverse tides impel 
Now here, now there ? As when the winds wage war, 
And the wild waves against each other smite, 
My heart is beaten ; duty drives out fear, 
As wrath drives duty. Anger dies in love. 900 
Dear sons, sole solace of a storm-tossed house, 
Come hither, he may have you safe if I 
May claim you too ! But he has banished me ; 
Already from my bosom torn away 
They go lamenting perish then to both, 905 
To him as me ! My wrath again grows hot ; 
Furies, I go wherever you may lead. 
Would that the children of the haughty child 
Of Tantalus were mine, that I had borne 
Twice seven sons ! In bearing only two 91 

I have been cursed ! And yet it is enough 

Scene III Medea 41 

For father, brother, that I have borne two. 
Where does that horde of furies haste ? whom seek ? 
For whom prepare their fires ? or for whom 
Intends the infernal band its bloody torch ? 915 
Whom does Megaera seek with hostile brand ? 
The mighty dragon lashes its fierce tail 
What shade uncertain brings its scattered limbs ? 
It is my brother, and he seeks revenge ; 
I grant it, thrust the torches in my eyes ; 920 

Kill, burn, the furies have me in their power ! 
Brother, command the avenging goddesses 
To leave me, and the shades to seek their place 
In the infernal regions without fear; 
Here leave me to myself, and use this hand 9 2 5 
That held the sword your soul has found re 
venge. \_Kills one of her sons. 
What is the sudden noise ? They come in arms 
And think to drive me into banishment. 
I will go up on the high roof, come thou ; 
I ll take the body with me. Now my soul, 930 
Strike ! hold not hid thy power, but show the world 
What thou art able. 

[She goes out with the nurse and the living boy, 
and carries with her the body of her dead son. 


Jason in the foreground, Medea with the children appears 
upon the roof. 

Jason. Ye faithful ones, who share 
In the misfortunes of your harassed king, 

42 Seneca Act V 

Hasten to take the author of these deeds. 935 
Come hither, hither, cohorts of brave men ; 
Bring up your weapons ; overthrow the house. 
Medea. I have recaptured now my crown and 


My brother and my father ; Colchians hold 
The golden fleece; my kingdom is won back ; 940 
My lost virginity returns to me ! 

gods appeased, marriage, and happy days, 

Go now, my vengeance is complete ! Not yet 
Finish it while thy hands are strong to strike. 
Why seek delay ? Why hesitate, my soul ? 945 
Thou art able ! All thine anger falls to nought ! 

1 do repent of that which I have done ! 
Why did st thou do it, miserable one ? 
Yea, miserable ! Ruth shall follow thee ! 

Tis done, great joy fills my unwilling heart, 950 
And, lo, the joy increases. But one thing 
Before was lacking Jason did not see ! 
All that he has not seen I count as lost. 

Jason. She threatens from the roof; let fire 

be brought, 954 

That she may perish burned with her own flame. 

Medea. Pile high the funeral pyre of thy sons, 
And rear their tomb. To Creon and thy wife 
I have already paid the honors due. 
This son is dead, and this shall soon be so, 
And thou shalt see him perish. 

Jason. By the gods, 960 

By our sad flight together, and the bond 
I have not willingly forsaken, spare 

Scene III Medea 43 

Our son ! If there is any crime, tis mine ; 
Put me to death, strike down the guilty one. 

Medea. There where thou askest mercy, and 
canst feel 965 

The sting, I thrust the sword. Go, Jason, seek 
Thy virgin bride, desert a mother s bed. 

Jason. Let one suffice for vengeance. 

Medea. Had it been 

That one could satisfy my hands with blood, 
I had slain none. But two is not enough. 970 

Jason. Then go, fill up the measure of thy 


I ask for nothing but that thou should st make 
A speedy end. 

Medea. Now, grief, take slow revenge ; 

It is my day ; haste not, let me enjoy. 

[Kills the other child. 

Jason. Slay me, mine enemy ! 

Medea. Dost thou implore 975 

My pity ? It is well ! I am avenged. 
Grief, there is nothing more that thou canst slay ! 
Look up, ungrateful Jason, recognize 
Thy wife ; so I am wont to flee. The way 
Lies open through the skies ; two dragons bend 
Their necks, submissive to the yoke. I go 981 
In my bright car through heaven. Take thy sons ! 

[She casts down to him the bodies of her children^ 
and is borne away in a chariot drawn by dragons. 

Jason. Go through the skies sublime, and 

going prove 983 

That the gods dwell not in the heavens you seek. 
















SCENE Troy. 




Hecuba. Let him who puts his trust in kingly 


Who rules in prince s court with power supreme, 
Who, credulous of heart, dreads not the gods, 
But in his happy lot confides, behold 
My fate and Troy s. Never by clearer proof 5 
Was shown how frail a thing is human pride. 
Strong Asia s capital, the work of gods, 
Is fallen ; and she beneath whose banners fought 
The men who drink the Tanais cold stream 
That flows by sevenfold outlet to the sea, 10 

And those who see the new-born day where blends 
Tigris warm waters with the blushing strait, 
Is fallen ; her walls and towers, to ashes burned, 
Lie low amid her ruined palaces. 
The flames destroy the city ; far and near 15 

Smolders the home of King Assaracus. 
But flames stay not the eager conqueror s hand 
From plundering Troy. The sky is hid with 

smoke ; 
And day, as though enveloped in black cloud, 


48 Seneca Act I 

Is dark with ashes. Eager for revenge, 20 

The victor stands and measures her slow fall ; 
Forgets the long ten years ; deplores her fate ; 
Nor yet believes that he has vanquished her, 
Although he sees her conquered in the dust. 
The pillagers are busy with the spoil ; 25 

A thousand ships will hardly bear it hence. 

Witness, ye adverse deities ; and ye, 
My country s ashes, and thou, Phrygia s king, 
Buried beneath the ruins of thy realm ; 
Ye spirits of the mighty, in whose life 30 

Troy lived ; and ye my offspring, lesser shades ; 
Whatever ills have happened ; whatsoe er 
The priestess of Apollo, to whose word 
The god denied belief, has prophesied, 
I, going great with child, have earlier feared, 35 
Nor feared in silence, though in vain I spoke ; 
Cassandra too has prophesied in vain. 
Alas, twas not the crafty Ithacan, 
Nor the companions of his night attack, 
Nor Sinon false, who flung into your midst 40 
Devouring flame ; the glowing torch was mine ! 
Aged, and sick of life, why weep for Troy ? 
Unhappy one, recall more recent woes ; 
The fall of Troy is now an ancient grief! 
I ve seen the murder of a king base crime ! 45 
And, at the altar s foot allowed, I ve seen 
A baser crime, when JEacus fierce son, 
His left hand in the twisted locks, bent back 
That royal head, and drove the iron home 
In the deep wound; freely it was received, 5 

Scene II The Daughters of Troy 49 

And buried deep, and yet drawn forth unstained, 
So sluggish is the blood of frozen age. 
This old man s cruel death at the last mete 
Of human life ; and the immortal gods, 
Witnesses of the deed ; and fallen Troy s 55 

Fair altars, cannot stay the savage hand. 
Priam, the father of so many kings, 
Has found no grave, and in the flames of Troy 
No funeral pyre, and yet the wrathful gods 
Are not appeased ; behold, the lot is cast 60 

That gives to Priam s daughters and his sons 
A master ; and I go to servitude. 
This one seeks Hector s wife, this Helenus ; 
And this Antenor s ; nor are wanting those 
Who long for thee, Cassandra ; me alone 65 

They shun, and I alone affright the Greeks. 

Why cease your lamentations, captive ones ? 
Make moan, and smite your breasts, pay funeral 

rites ; 

Let fatal Ida, home of your harsh judge, 
Reecho long your sorrowful lament. 70 

Hecuba t Chorus of Trojan Women. 

Chorus. You bid those weep who are not new 

to grief; 

Our lamentations have not ceased to rise 
From that day when the Phrygian stranger sought 
Grecian Amyclae ; and the sacred pine 

50 Seneca Act I 

Of Mother Cybele, through Grecian seas 75 

A pathway cut. } Ten times the winter snows 
Have whitened Ida Ida stripped of trees 
To furnish Trojan dead with funeral pyres 
Ten times the trembling reaper has gone forth 
To cut the bearded grain from Ilium s fields, 80 
Since any day has seen us free from tears. 
New sorrows ask new mourning, lift thy hand 
And beat upon thy breast : thy followers, queen, 
Are not inept at weeping. 

Hecuba. Faithful ones, 

Companions of my grief, unbind your hair ; 85 
About your shoulders let it flow defiled 
With Troy s hot ashes ; come with breast exposed, 
Carelessly loosened robes, and naked limbs ; 
Why veil your modest bosoms, captive ones ? 
Gird up your flowing tunics, free your hands 90 
For fierce and frequent beating of your breasts. 
So I am satisfied, I recognize 
My Trojan followers ; again I hear 
Their wonted lamentations. Weep indeed ; 
We weep for Hector. 

Chorus. W T e unbind our hair, 95 

So often torn in wild laments, and strew 
Troy s glowing ashes on our heads ; permit 
Our loosened robe to drop from shoulders bare ; 
Our naked bosoms now invite our blows. 
O sorrow, show thy power ; let Rhoeta s 
shores 100 

Give back the blows, nor from her hollow hills 
Faint Echo sound the closing words alone, 

Scene II The Daughters of Troy 51 

But let her voice repeat each bitter groan, 
And earth and ocean hear. With cruel blows 
Smite, smite, nor be content with faint laments : 105 
We weep for Hector. 

Hecuba. For thee our hands have torn our 

naked arms 

And bleeding shoulders ; Hector, tis for thee 
We beat our brows and lacerate our breasts ; 
The wounds inflicted in thy funeral rites no 

Still gape and flow with blood. Thou, Hector, 


The pillar of thy land, her fates delay, 
The prop of wearied Phrygians, and the wall 
Of Troy ; by thee supported, firm she stood, 
Ten years upheld. With thee thy country fell, 115 
Her day of doom and Hector s were the same. 
Weep now for Priam, smite for him your breasts ; 
Hector has tears enough. 

Chorus. Pilot of Phrygia, twice a captive made, 
Receive our tears, receive our wild laments. 120 
Whilst thou wast king, Troy suffered many woes ; 
Twice by Greek weapons were her walls assailed ; 
Twice were they made a target for the darts 
Of Hercules ; and when that kingly band, 
Hecuba s offspring, had been offered up, 125 

With thee, their sire, the funeral rites were stayed ; 
An offering to great Jove, thy headless trunk 
Lies on Sigea s plain. 

Hecuba. Women of Troy, 

For others shed your tears ; not Priam s death 
I weep ; say rather all, thrice happy he ! 130 

52 Seneca Act I 

Free he descended to the land of shades, 
Nor will he ever bear on conquered neck 
The Grecian yoke ; nor the Atrides see ; 
Nor look on shrewd Ulysses ; nor, a slave, 
Carry the trophies on his neck to grace 135 

A Grecian triumph ; feel his sceptered hands 
Bound at his back ; nor add a further pomp 
To proud Mycene, forced in golden chains 
To follow Agamemnon s royal car. 

Chorus. Thrice happy Priam ! as a king he 
went 140 

Into the land of spirits ; wanders now 
Through the safe shadows of Elysian Fields, 
In happiness among the peaceful shades, 
And seeks for Hector. Happy Priam say ! 
Thrice happy he, who, dying in the fight, 145 
Bears with him to destruction all his land. 



Taltbybius, Chorus of Trojan Women. 

Talthybius. O long delay, that holds the 

Greeks in port, 
Whether they seek for war or for their homes. 

Chorus. Say what the reason of the long delay, 
What god forbids the Greeks the homeward 

road? 150 

Talthybius. I tremble, and my spirit shrinks 

with fear ; 

Such prodigies will hardly find belief. 
I saw them, I myself; Titan had touched 
The mountain summits, dayspring conquered 


When, on a sudden, with a muttered groan, 155 
Earth trembled, in the woods the tree-tops shook; 
The lofty forests and the sacred grove 
Thundered with mighty ruin ; Ida s cliffs 
Fell from her summit ; nor did earth alone 
Tremble, the ocean also recognized 160 

Achilles coming, and laid bare her depths ; 
In the torn earth a gloomy cavern yawned; 
A way was opened up from Erebus 
To upper day ; the tomb gave up its dead ; 
The towering shade of the Thessalian chief 165 


54 Seneca Act II 

Leaped forth as when, preparing for thy fate, 
O Troy, he put to flight the Thracian host, 
And struck down Neptune s shining, fair-haired 

son ; 

Or as when, breathing battle from the field, 
He filled the rivers with the fallen dead, 170 

And Xanthus wandered over bloody shoals 
Seeking slow channels ; or as when he stood 
In his proud car, a victor, while he dragged 
Hector and Troy behind him in the dust. 

His wrathful voice rang out along the shore : 175 
c Go, go, ye slothful ones, pay honors due 
My manes. Let the thankless ships be freed 
To sail my seas. Not lightly Greece has felt 
Achilles wrath ; that wrath shall heavier fall. 
Polyxena, betrothed to me in death, 180 

Must die a sacrifice at Pyrrhus hand, 
And make my tomb glow crimson. Thus he 


Shadowed the day with night, and sought again 
The realm of Dis. He took the riven path ; 
Earth closed above him, and the tranquil sea 185 
Lay undisturbed, the raging wind was still, 
Softly the ocean murmured, Tritons sang 
From the blue deep their hymeneal chant. 


Agamemnon, Pyrrbus. 

Pyrrhus. When, homeward turning, you would 
fain have spread 

Scene II The Daughters of Troy 55 

Your happy sails, Achilles was forgot. 190 

By him alone struck down, Troy fell ; her fall, 

Ev n at his death, was but so long delayed 

As she stood doubtful whither she should fall ; 

Haste as you will to give him what he asks 

You give too late. Already all the chiefs 195 

Have carried off their prizes ; what reward 

Of lesser price have you to offer him 

For so great valor ? Does he merit less ? 

He, bidden shun the battle and enjoy 

A long and happy age, outnumbering 200 

The many years of Pylos aged king, 

Threw off his mother s mantle, stood confessed 

A man of arms. When Telephus in vain 

Refused Achilles entrance to the coast 

Of rocky Mysia, with his royal blood 205 

He stained Achilles hand, but found that hand 

Gentle as strong. When Thebes was overcome 

Eetion, its conquered ruler, saw 

His realm made captive. With like slaughter fell 

Little Lyrnessus, built at Ida s foot ; 210 

Briseia s land was captured ; Chryse, too, 

The cause of royal strife, is overthrown ; 

And well-known Tenedos, and Sciro s isle 

That, rich with fertile pastures, nourishes 

The Thracian herd, and Lesbos that divides 215 

The ^Egean straits, Cilia to Phoebus dear, 

Yes, and whatever land Caicus laves 

With its green depths of waters. This had been 

To any other, glory, honor, fame, 

Achilles is but on the march ; so sped 220 

56 Seneca Act II 

My father, and so great the war he waged 
While he made ready for his great campaign. 

Though I were silent of his other deeds, 
Would it not be enough that Hector died ? 
My father conquered Ilium ; as for you, 225 

You have but made it naught. It gives me joy 
To speak the praises and illustrious deeds 
Of my great sire: how Hector in the eyes 
Of fatherland and father prostrate fell, 
How Memnon, too, lies slain, whose mother 
shuns 230 

The gloomy light of day, with pallid cheek 
Mourning his fate ; and at his own great deeds 
Achilles trembles, and, a victor, learns 
That death may touch the children of a god. 
The Amazons harsh queen, thy final fear, 235 
Last yielded. Wouldst thou honor worthily 
His mighty arms, then yield him what he will, 
Though he should ask a virgin from the land 
Of Argos or Mycene. Dost thou doubt ; 
Too soon content, art loth to offer up 240 

A maiden, Priam s child, to Peleus son ? 
Thy child was sacrificed to Helenus, 
Tis not an unaccustomed gift I ask. 

Agamemnon. To have no power to check the 

passions glow 

Is ever found a fault of youthful hearts ; 245 

That which in others is the zeal of youth, 
In Pyrrhus is his father s fiery heart. 
Thus mildly once I stood the savage threats 
Of ^Eacus fierce son ; most patiently 

Scene II The Daughters of Troy 57 

He bears, who is most strong. With slaughter 

harsh 250 

Why sprinkle our illustrious leader s shade ? 
Learn first how much the conqueror may do, 
The conquered suffer. Tis the mild endure, 
But he who harshly rules, rules not for long. 
The higher Fortune doth exalt a man, 255 

Increasing human power, so much the more 
Fearing the gods who too much favor him, 
And not unmindful of uncertain fate 
He should be meek. In conquering, I have 


How in a moment greatness is o erthrown. 260 

Has Trojan triumph too soon made us proud? 

We stand, we Greeks, in that place whence Troy 


Imperious I have been, and borne myself 
At times too proudly ; Fortune s gifts correct 
In me the pride they oft in others rouse. 265 

Priam, thou mak st me proud, but mak st me fear. 
What can I deem my scepter, but a name 
Made bright with idle glitter ; or my crown, 
But empty ornament ? Fate overthrows 
Swiftly, nor will it need a thousand ships, 270 

Perchance, nor ten years war. I own, indeed, 
(This can I do, oh Argive land, nor wound 
Thy honor) I have troubled Phrygia 
And wished her conquered ; but I would have 


The hand that crushed and laid her in the dust. 275 
A foe enraged, who gains the victory 

58 Seneca Act II 

By night, checks not his raging at command ; 
Whatever cruel or unworthy deed 
Appeared in any, anger was the cause 
Anger and darkness and the savage sword 280 
Made glad with blood and seeking still for more. 

All that yet stands of ruined Troy shall stand, 
Enough of punishment more than enough 
Has been exacted ; that a royal maid 
Should fall, and, offered as a sacrifice 285 

Upon a tomb, should crimson with her blood 
The ashes, and this hateful crime be called 
A marriage I will never suffer it. 
Upon my head would rest the guilt of all ; 
He who forbids not crime when he has power, 290 
Commands it. 

Pyrrbus. Shall Achilles then go hence 

With empty hand? 

Agamemnon. No, all shall tell his praise, 

And unknown lands shall sing his glorious name ; 
And if his shade would take delight in blood 
Poured forth upon his ashes, let us slay 295 

A Phrygian sheep, rich sacrifice. No blood 
Shall flow to cause a sorrowing mother s tears. 
What fashion this, by which a living soul 
Is sacrificed to one gone down to hell ? 
Think not to soil thy father s memory 300 

With such revenge, commanding us to pay 
Due reverence with blood. 

Pyrrbus. Harsh king of kings ! 

So arrogant while favoring fortune smiles, 
So timid when aught threatens ! Is thy heart 

Scene II The Daughters of Troy 59 

So soon inflamed with love and new desire ; 305 
And wilt thou bear away from us the spoil ? 
I ll give Achilles back, with this right hand, 
His victim, and, if thou withholdest her, 
I ll give a greater, and whom Pyrrhus gives 
Will prove one worthy. All too long our hand 310 
Has ceased from slaughter, Priam seeks his peer. 

Agamemnon. That was, indeed, the worthiest 

warlike act 

Of Pyrrhus : with relentless hand he slew 
Priam, whose suppliant prayer Achilles heard. 

Pyrrhus. We know our father s foes were 
suppliants, 315 

But Priam made his prayer himself, whilst thou, 
Not brave to ask, and overcome with fear, 
Lurked trembling in thy tent, and sought as aid 
The intercessions of the Ithacan 
And Ajax. 

Agamemnon. That thy father did not fear, 320 
I own ; amid the slaughter of the Greeks 
And burning of the fleet, forgetting war, 
He idly lay, and with his plectrum touched 
Lightly his lyre. 

Pyrrhus. Mighty Hector then 

Laughed at thy arms but feared Achilles song; 325 
By reason of that fear peace reigned supreme 
In the Thessalian fleet. 

Agamemnon. There was in truth 

Deep peace for Hector s father in that fleet. 

Pyrrhus. To grant kings life is kingly. 

Agamemnon. Why wouldst thou 

60 Seneca Act II 

With thy right hand cut short a royal life ? 33 
Pyrrbus. Mercy gives often death instead of 

Agamemnon. Mercy seeks now a virgin for 

the tomb ? 
Pyrrbus. Thou deemst it crime to sacrifice a 

maid ? 
Agamemnon. More than their children, kings 

should love their land. 
Pyrrbus. No law spares captives or denies 

revenge. 335 

Agamemnon. What law forbids not., honor s 

self forbids. 
Pyrrbus. To victors is permitted what they 

Agamemnon. He least should wish to whom is 

f ranted most. 
vs. And this thou sayest to us, who ten 
long years 339 

Have borne thy heavy yoke, whom my hand 

freed ? 
Agamemnon. Is this the boast of Scyros ? 

o J 

Pyrrbus. There no stain 

Of brother s blood is found. 

Agamemnon. Shut in by waves 

Pyrrbus. Nay, but the seas are kin. I know 

thy house 
Yea, Atreus and Thyestes noble house ! 344 

Agamemnon. Son of Achilles ere he was a man. 
And of the maid he ravished secretly 

Pyrrbus. Of that Achilles, who, by right of 

Scene III The Daughters of Troy 61 

Through all the world held sway, inherited 
The ocean from his mother, and the shades 
From ^Eacus, from Jupiter the sky. 350 

Agamemnon. Achilles, who by Paris hand was 

Pyrrhus. One whom the gods attacked not 

Agamemnon. To curb thy insolence and daring 


I well were able, but my sword can spare 
The conquered. 

[To some of the soldiers, who surround him. 

Call the god s interpreter. 355 
\_A few of the soldiers go out^ Calchas comes in. 


Agamemnon, Pyrrhus, Calcbas. 

Agamemnon. [To Calchas .] Thou, who hast 

freed the anchors of the fleet ; 
Ended the war s delay ; and by thy arts 
Hast opened heaven ; to whom the secret things 
Revealed in sacrifice, in shaken earth, 
And star that draws through heaven its flaming 
length, 360 

Are messengers of fate ; whose words have been 
To me the words of doom ; speak, Calchas, tell 
What thing the god commands, and govern us 
By thy wise counsels. 

Calchas. Fate a pathway grants 



Seneca Act n 

To Grecians only at the wonted price. 
A virgin must be slain upon the tomb 
Of the Thessalian leader, and adorned 
In robes like those Thessalian virgins wear 
To grace their bridals, or Ionian maids, 
Or damsels of Mycene ; and the bride 
Shall be by Pyrrhus to his father brought 
So is she rightly wed. Yet not alone 
Is this the cause that holds our ships in port 
But blood must flow for blood, and nobler blooc 
Than thine, Polyxena. Whom fate demands- 
Grandchild of Priam, Hector s only son- 
Hurled headlong from Troy s wall shall meet his 

Then shall our thousand sails make white the 



Chorus of Trojan Women. 

Is it true, or does an idle story 
Make the timid dream that after death, 
When the loved one shuts the wearied eyeli 
When the last day s sun has come and gone, 
And the funeral urn has hid the ashes, 
He shall still live on among the shades . 
Does it not avail to bear the dear one 
To the srave ? Must misery still endure 
Longer life beyond ? Does not all perish 
When the fleeting spirit fades in air 


Scene IV The Daughters of Troy 63 

Cloudlike ? When the dreaded fire is lighted 
Neath the body, does no part remain ? *" 39 o 

Whatsoe er the rising sun or setting 
Sees ; whatever ebbing tide or flood 
Of the ocean with blue waters washes, 
Time with Pegasean flight destroys. 
Like the sweep of whirling constellations, 395 

Like the circling of their king the sun, 
Haste the ages. As obliquely turning 
Hecate speeds, so all must seek their fate ; 
He who touches^once the gloomy water 
Sacred to the god, exists no more. 4 oo 

As the sordid smoke from smoldering embers 
Swiftly dies, or as a heavy cloud, 
That the north wind scatters, ends its being, 
So the soul that rules us slips away ; 
After death is nothing ; death is nothing 405 

But the last mete of a swift-run race, 
Which to^eager souls gives hope, to fearful 
Sets a limit to their fears. Believe 
Eager time and the abyss engulf us ; 
Death is fatal to the flesh, nor spares 410 

Spirit even ; Taenaris, the kingdom 
Of the gloomy monarch, and the door 
Where sits Cerberus and guards the portal, 
Are but empty rumors, senseless names, 
Fables vain, that trouble anxious sleep. 415 

Ask you whither go we after death ? 
Where they lie who never have been born. 


Andromache, An Old Man. 

Andromache. Why tear your hair, my Phrygian 

Why beat your breasts and mar your cheeks with 

tears ? 

The grief is light that has the power to weep. 420 
Troy fell for you but now, for me long since 
When fierce Achilles urged at speed his car, 
And dragged behind his wheel my very self; 
The axle, made of wood from Pelion s groves, 
Groaned heavily, and under Hector s weight 425 
Trembled. O erwhelmed and crushed, I bore 


Whate er befell, for I was stunned with grief. 
I would have followed Hector long ago, 
And freed me from the Greeks, but this my son 
Held me, subdued my heart, forbade my death, 43 
Compelled me still to ask the gods a boon, 
Added a longer life to misery. 
He took away my sorrow s richest fruit 
To know no fear. All chance of better things 
Is snatched away, and worse are yet to come ; 435 
Tis wretchedness to fear where hope is lost. 

6 4 

Scene I The Daughters of Troy 65 

Old Man. What sudden fear assails thee, 
troubled one ? 

Andromache. From great misfortunes, greater 

ever spring ; 
Troy needs must fill the measure of her woes. 

Old Man. Though he should wish, what can 
the god do more? 440 

Andromache. The entrance of the bottomless 


Of gloomy Styx lies open ; lest defeat 
Should lack enough of fear, the buried foe 
Comes forth from Dis. Can Greeks alone return? 
Death certainly is equal ; Phrygians feel 445 

This common fear; a dream of dreadful night 
Me only terrified. 

Old Man. What dream is this ? 

Andromache. The sweet night s second watch 

was hardly passed, 

The Seven Stars were turning from the height; 
At length there came an unaccustomed calm 450 
To me afflicted ; on my eyes there stole 
Brief sleep, if that dull lethargy be sleep 
That comes to grief-worn souls ; when, suddenly, 
Before my eyes stood Hector, not as when 
He bore against the Greeks avenging fire, 455 
Seeking the Argive fleet with Trojan torch ; 
Nor as he raged with slaughter gainst the Greeks, 
And bore away Achilles arms true spoil, 
From him who played Achilles part, nor was 
A true Achilles. Not with flame-bright face 460 
He came, but marred with tears, dejected, sad, 

66 Seneca Act III 

Like us, and all unkempt his loosened hair ; 

Yet I rejoiced to see him. Then he said, 

Shaking his head : O faithful wife, awake ! 

Bear hence thy son and hide him, this alone 465 

Is safety. Weep not! Do you weep for Troy? 

Would all were fallen ! Hasten, seek a place 

Of safety for the child/ Then I awoke, 

Cold horror and a trembling broke my sleep. 

Fearful, I turned my eyes now here, now there. 470 

Me miserable, careless of my son, 

I sought for Hector, but the fleeting shade 

Slipped from my arms, eluded my embrace. 

O child, true son of an illustrious sire ; 

Troy s only hope ; last of a stricken race ; 475 

Too noble offspring of an ancient house; 

Too like thy father! Such my Hector s face, 

Such was his gait, his manner, so he held 

His mighty hands, and so his shoulders broad. 

So threatened with bold brow when shaking 

back 4 8 

His heavy hair ! Oh, born too late for Troy, 
Too soon for me, will ever come that time, 
That happy day, when thou shalt build again 
Troy s walls, and lead from flight her scattered 


Avenging and defending mightily, 485 

And give again a name to Troy s fair land ? 
But, mindful of my fate, I dare not wish ; 
We live, and life is all that slaves can hope. 
Alas, what place of safety can I find, 
Where hide thee ? That high citadel, god-built, 490 

Scene I The Daughters of Troy 67 

Is dust, her streets are flame, and naught remains 

Of all the mighty city, not so much 

As where to hide an infant. Oh, what place 

Of safety can I find ? The mighty tomb, 

Reared to my husband this the foe must fear. 

His father, Priam, in his sorrow built, 496 

With no ungenerous hand, great Hector s tomb ; 

I rightly trust a father. Yet I fear 

The baleful omen of the place of tombs, 

And a cold sweat my trembling members bathes. 500 

Old Man. The safe may choose, the wretched 
seize defense. 

Andromache. We may not hide him without 

heavy fear 
Lest some one find him. 

Old Man. Cover up the trace 

Of our device. 

Andromache. And if the foe should ask ? 

Old Man. In the destruction of the land he 
died, 505 

It oft has saved a man that he was deemed 
Already dead. 

Andromache. No other hope is left. 
He bears the heavy burden of his name ; 
If he must come once more into their power 
What profits it to hide him ? 

Old Man. Victors oft 510 

Are savage only in the first attack. 

Andromache. [To Astyanax.~] What distant, 

pathless land will keep thee safe, 
Or who protect thee, give thee aid in fear ? 

68 Seneca Act III 

Hector, now as ever guard thine own, 
Preserve the secret of thy faithful wife, 515 
And to thy trusted ashes take thy child ! 

My son, go thou into thy father s tomb. 
What, do you turn and shun the dark retreat ? 

1 recognize thy father s strength of soul, 
Ashamed of fear. Put by thy inborn pride, 520 
Thy courage ; take what fortune has to give. 

See what is left of all the Trojan host : 

A tomb, a child, a captive ! We succumb 

To such misfortunes. Dare to enter now 

Thy buried father s sacred resting-place ; 525 

If fate is kind thou hast a safe retreat, 

If fate refuse thee aid, thou hast a grave. 

Old Man. The sepulcher will safely hide thy 

son ; 

Go hence lest thou shouldst draw them to the spot. 
Andromache. One s fear is lightlier borne when 

near at hand, 530 

But elsewhere will I go, since that seems best. 
Old Man. Stay yet a while, but check the 

signs of grief; 
This way the Grecian leader bends his steps. 


Andromache , Ulysses with a retinue of warriors. \The old man 
withdraws. "\ 

Ulysses. Coming a messenger of cruel fate, 
I pray you deem not mine the bitter words 535 

Scene II The Daughters of Troy 69 

I speak, for this is but the general voice 

Of all the Greeks, too long from home detained 

By Hector s child : him do the fates demand. 

The Greeks can hope for but a doubtful peace, 

Fear will compel them still to look behind 540 

Nor lay aside their armor, while thy child, 

Andromache, gives strength to fallen Troy. 

So prophesies the god s interpreter ; 

And had the prophet Calchas held his peace, 

Hector had spoken ; Hector and his son 545 

I greatly fear : those sprung of noble race 

Must needs grow great. With proudly lifted 


And haughty neck, the young and hornless bull 
Leads the paternal herd and rules the flock ; 
And when the tree is cut, the tender stalk 550 
Soon rears itself above the parent trunk, 
Shadows the earth, and lifts its boughs to heaven ; 
The spark mischance has left from some great fire, 
Renews its strength ; like these is Hector s son. 
If well you weigh our act, you will forgive, 555 
Though grief is harsh of judgment. We have 


Ten weary winters, ten long harvests spent 
In war ; and now, grown old, our soldiers fear, 
Even from fallen Troy, some new defeat. 
Tis not a trifling thing that moves the Greeks, 560 
But a young Hector; free them from this fear; 
This cause alone holds back our waiting fleet, 
This stops the ships. Too cruel think me not, 
By lot commanded Hector s son to seek ; 

jo Seneca Act III 

I sought Orestes once ; with patience bear 565 
What we ourselves have borne. 

Andromache. Alas, my son, 

Would that thou wert within thy mother s arms ! 
Would that I knew what fate encompassed thee, 
What region holds thee, torn from my embrace ! 
Although my breast were pierced with hostile 

spears, 570 

My hands bound fast with wounding chains, my 


By biting flame were girdled, not for this 
Would I put off my mother-guardianship ! 
What spot, what fortune holds thee now, my son ? 
Art thou a wanderer in an unknown land, 575 
Or have the flames of Troy devoured thee ? 
Or does the conqueror in thy blood rejoice ? 
Or, snatched by some wild beast, perhaps thou 

On Ida s summit, food for Ida s birds ? 

Ulysses. No more pretend. Thou mayst not 

so deceive 5 8 

Ulysses ; I have power to overcome 
A mother s wiles, although she be divine. 
Put by thy empty plots ; where is thy son ? 
Andromache. Where is my Hector ? Where 

the Trojan host ? 
Where Priam ? Thou seek st one, I seek them 

all. 585 

Ulysses. What thou refusest willingly to tell, 
Thou shalt be forced to say. 

Andromache. She rests secure 


Scene II The Daughters of Troy 71 

Who can, who ought, nay, who desires to die. 
Ulysses. Near death may put an end to such 

proud boast. 
Andromache. Ulysses, if thou hop st through 

fear to force 590 

Andromache to speak, threat longer life; 
Death is to me a wished-for messenger. 

Ulysses. With fire, scourge, torment, even 

death itself, 

I will compel thy heart s deep-hidden thought; 
Necessity is stronger far than death. 595 

Andromache. Threat flames, wounds, hunger, 

thirst, the bitter stings 

Of cruel grief, all torments, sword plunged deep 
Within this bosom, or the prison dark 
Whatever angry, fearful victors may ; 
Learn that a loving mother knows no fear. 600 
Ulysses. And yet this love, in which thou 

standst entrenched 

So stubbornly, admonishes the Greeks 
To think of their own children. Even now, 
After these long ten years, this weary war, 
I should fear less the danger Calchas threats, 605 
If for myself I feared but thou prepar st 
W 7 ar for Telemachus. 

Andromache. Unwillingly 

I give the Grecians joy, but I must give. 
Ulysses, anguish must confess its pain ; 
Rejoice, O son of Atreus, carry back 610 

As thou art wont, to the Pelasgian host 
The joyous news : great Hector s son is dead. 

72 Seneca Act III 

Ulysses. How prove it to the Greeks ? 
Andromache. Fall on me else 

The greatest ill the victor can inflict : 
Fate free me by an easy, timely death, 615 

And hide me underneath my native soil ! 
Lightly on Hector lie his country s earth 
As it is true that, hidden from the light, 
Deep in the tomb, among the shades he rests. 
Ulysses. Accomplished then the fate of Hector s 

race ; 620 

A joyous message of established peace 
I take the Greeks. \_He turns to go, then hesitates. 

Ulysses, wouldst thou so ? 
The Greeks have trusted thee, thou trustest- 

whom ? 

A mother. Would a mother tell this lie 
Nor fear the augury of dreaded death ? 625 

They fear the auguries, who fear naught else. 
She swears it with an oath yet, falsely sworn, 
What has she worse to fear ? Now call to aid 
All that thou hast of cunning, stratagem, 
And guile, the whole Ulysses ; truth dies not. 630 
Watch well the mother; see she mourns, she 


She groans, turns every way her anxious steps, 
Listens with ear attentive ; more she fears 
Than sorrows ; thou hast need of utmost care. 
\_To Andromachel\ For other mothers loss tis 

right to grieve ; 635 

Thee, wretched one, we must congratulate 
That thou hast lost a son whose fate had been 

Scene II The Daughters of Troy 73 

To die, hurled headlong from the one high tower 
Remaining of the ruined walls of Troy. 

Andromache [aside]. Life fails, I faint, I fall, 
an icy fear 640 

Freezes my blood. 

Ulysses [aside] . She trembles ; here the place 
For my attack ; she is betrayed by fear ; 
I ll add worse fear. [To his followers. 

Go quickly ; somewhere lies, 
By mother s guile concealed, the hidden foe 
The Greeks last enemy of Trojan name. 645 

Go, seek him, drag him hither. [After a pause 
as though the child were found. ~\ It is well ; 
The child is taken ; hasten, bring him me. 
[To Andromache.~\ Why do you look around and 

seem to fear ? 
The boy is dead. 

Andromache. Would fear were possible ! 
Long have I feared, and now too late my soul 650 
Unlearns its lesson. 

Ulysses. Since by happier fate 

Snatched hence, the lad forestalls the sacrifice, 
The lustral offering from the walls of Troy 
And may not now obey the seer s command, 
Thus saith the prophet : this may be atoned, 655 
And Grecian ships at last may find return, 
If Hector s tomb be leveled with the ground, 
His ashes scattered on the sea ; the tomb 
Must feel my hand, since Hector s child escapes 
His destined death. 

Andromache [_aside~\ . Alas, what shall I do ? 660 

74 Seneca Act III 

A double fear distracts me ; here my son, 
And there my husband s sacred sepulcher , 
Which conquers ? O inexorable gods, 

manes of my husband my true god, 

Bear witness ; in my son tis thee I love, 665 

My Hector, and my son shall live to bear 
His father s image ! Shall the sacred dust 
Be cast upon the waves ? Nay, better death. 
Canst thou a mother bear to see him die, 
To see him from Troy s tower downward 
hurled ? 670 

1 can and will, that Hector, after death, 

Be not the victor s sport. The boy may feel 
The pain, where death has made the father safe. 
Decide, which one shall pay the penalty. 
Ungrateful, why in doubt ? Thy Hector s here! 675 
Tis false, each one is Hector; this one lives, 
Perchance th avenger of his father s death. 
I cannot save them both, what shall I do ? 
Oh, save the one whom most the Grecians fear ! 

Ulysses. I will fulfill the oracle, will raze 680 
The tomb to its foundations. 

Andromache. Which ye sold ? 

Ulysses. I ll do it, I will level with the dust 
The sepulcher. 

Andromache. I call the faith of heaven, 
Achilles faith, to aid ; come, Pyrrhus, save 
Thy father s gift. 

Ulysses. The tomb shall instantly 685 

Be leveled with the plain. 

Andromache. This crime alone 

Scene II The Daughters of Troy 75 

The Greeks had shunned ; ye ve sacked the holy 


Even of favoring gods, ye ve spared the tomb. 
I will not suffer it, unarmed I ll stand 
Against your armored host; rage gives me 

strength, 690 

And as the savage Amazon opposed 
The Grecian army, or the Maenad wild, 
Armed with the thyrsus, by the god possessed, 
Wounding herself spreads terror through the 


Herself unpained, I ll rush into your midst, 695 
And in defending the dear ashes die. \_She places 

herself before the grave. 
Ulysses [angrily to the shrinking soldiers. 
Why pause ? A woman s wrath and feeble noise 
Alarms you so ? Do quickly my command. 

[The soldiers go toward the grave, Androm 
ache throws herself upon them. 
Andromache. The sword must first slay me. 

Ah, woe is me, 
They drive me back. Hector, come forth the 

tomb ; 700 

Break through the fate s delay, and overwhelm 
The Grecian chief thy shade would be enough ! 
The weapon clangs and flashes in his hand ; 
Greeks, see you Hector ? Or do I alone 
Perceive him ? 

Ulysses. I will lay it in the dust. 705 

Andromache [aside ] . What have I done ? To 

ruin I have brought 

j6 Seneca Act III 

Father and son together ; yet, perchance, 
With supplications I may move the Greeks. 
The tomb s great weight will presently destroy 
Its hidden treasure; O my wretched child, 710 
Die wheresoe er the fates decree, not here ! 
Oh, may the father not o erwhelm the son, 
The son fall not upon his father s dust ! 

[She casts herself at the feet of Ulysses. 
Ulysses, at thy feet a suppliant 
I fall, and with my right hand clasp thy knees ; 715 
Never before a suppliant, here I ask 
Thy pity on a mother ; hear my prayer 
With patience ; on the fallen, lightly press, 
Since thee the gods lift up to greater heights ! 
The gifts thou grantst the wretched are to fate 720 
A hostage ; so again thou niayst behold 
Thy wife ; and old Laertes years endure 
Until once more he see thee ; so thy son 
Succeed thee and outrun thy fairest hopes 
In his good fortune, and his age exceed 725 

Laertes , and his gifts outnumber thine. 
Have pity on a mother to whose grief 
Naught else remains of comfort. 

Ulysses. Bring forth the boy, then thou mayst 

ask for grace. 

Andromache. Come hither from thy hiding- 
place, my son, 730 
Thy wretched mother s lamentable theft. 


Scene III The Daughters of Troy 77 


U/ysjes, Andromache, Astyanax. 

Andromache. Ulysses, this is he who terrifies 
The thousand keels, behold him. Fall, my son, 
A suppliant at the feet of this thy lord, 
And do him reverence ; nor think it base, 735 
Since Fortune bids the wretched to submit. 
Forget thy royal race, the power of one 
Renowned through all the world ; Hector forget ; 
Act the sad captive on thy bended knee, 
And imitate thy mother s tears, if yet 740 

Thou feelest not thy woes. \_To UlyssesJ] Troy 

saw long since 

The weeping of a royal child : the tears 
Of youthful Priam turned aside the threats 
Of stern Alcides ; he, the warrior fierce 
Who tamed wild beasts, who from the shattered 

gates 745 

Of shadowy Dis a hidden, upward path 
Opened, was conquered by his young foe s tears. 
Take back, he said, ( the reins of government, 
Receive thy father s kingdom, but maintain 
Thy scepter with a better faith than he ; 750 

So fared the captives of this conqueror ; 
Study the gentle wrath of Hercules ! 
Or do the arms alone of Hercules 
Seem pleasing to thee ? Of as noble race 
As Priam s, at thy feet a suppliant lies, 755 

And asks of thee his life ; let fortune give 

78 Seneca Act III 

To whom she will Troy s kingdom. 

Ulysses. Indeed the mother s sorrow moves 

me much ! 

Our Grecian mothers sorrow moves me more, 
To cause whose bane this child would grow a 
man. 760 

Andromache. These ruins of a land to ashes 

Could he arouse ? Or could these hands build 

Troy ? 

Troy has no hope, if such is all remains. 
We Trojans can no longer cause thee fear. 
And has the child his father s spirit ? Yes, 7 6 5 
But broken. Troy destroyed, his father s self 
Had lost that courage which great ills o ercame, 
If vengeance is your wish, what worse revenge 
Than to this noble neck to fit the yoke ? 
Make him a slave. Who ever yet denied 770 
This bounty to a king ? 

Ulysses. The seer forbids, 

Tis not Ulysses who denies the boon. 

Andromache. Artificer of fraud, plotter of guile, 
Whose warlike valor never felled a foe ; 
By the deceit and guile of whose false heart 775 
E en Greeks have fallen, dost thou make pre 

Of blameless god or prophet? Tis the work 
Of thine own heart. Thou, who by night mak st 


Now dar st at last one deed in open day 
A brave boy s death. 

Scene III The Daughters of Troy 79 

Ulysses. My valor to the Greeks 780 

Is known, and to the Phrygians too well known. 
We may not waste the day in idle talk 
Our ships weigh anchor. 

Andromache. Grant a brief delay, 

While I, a mother, for my son perform 
The last sad office, satiate my grief, 785 

My mother s sorrow, with a last embrace. 

Ulysses. I would that I might pity ! W 7 hat 1 


Time and delay, I grant thee ; let thy tears 
Fall freely ; weeping ever softens grief. 

Andromache. O pledge of love, light of a 

fallen house, 790 

Last of the Trojan dead, fear of the Greeks, 
Thy mother s empty hope, for whom I prayed 
Fool that I was that thou mightst have the 


Of Priam, and thy father s warlike soul, 
The gods despise my vows ; thou ne er shalt wield 
A scepter in the kingly halls of Troy, 796 

Mete justice to thy people, nor shalt send 
Thy foes beneath thy yoke, nor put to flight 
The Greeks, drag Pyrrhus at thy chariot wheels, 
Nor ever in thy slender hands bear arms ; 800 
Nor wilt thpfu hunt the dwellers in the wood, 
Nor on high festival, in Trojan games, 
Lead forth the noble band of Trojan youth ; 
Nor round the altars with swift-moving steps, 
That the reechoing of the twisted horn 805 

Makes swifter, honor with accustomed dance 

80 Seneca Act III 

The Phrygian temples. Oh, most bitter death ! 

Ulysses. Great sorrow knows no limit, cease 
thy moans ! 

Andromache. How narrow is the time we seek 

for tears ! 

Grant me a trivial boon : that with these hands 810 
His living eyes be bound. My little one, 
Thou diest, but feared already by thy foes ; 
Thy Troy awaits thee ; go, in freedom go, 
To meet free Trojans. 

Astyanax. Mother, pity me ! 

Andromache. Why hold thy mother s hands 
and clasp her neck, 815 

And seek in vain a refuge ? The young bull, 
Thus fearful, seeks his mother when he hears 
The roaring of the lion ; from her side 
By the fierce lion driv n, the tender prey 
Is seized, and crushed, and dragged apart; so thee 
Thy foeman snatches from thy mother s breast. 821 
Child, take my tears, my kisses, my torn locks, 
Go to thy father, bear him these few words 
Of my complaint: c If still thy spirit keeps 
Its former cares, if died not on the flames 825 

Thy former love, why leave Andromache 
To serve the Grecians ? Hector, cruel one, 
Dost thou lie cold and vanquished in the grave? 
Achilles came again. Take then these Jocks, 
These tears, for these alone I have to give, 830 
Since Hector s death, and take thy mother s 

To give thy father ; leave thy robe for me, 

Scene IV The Daughters of Troy 81 

Since it has touched his tomb and his dear dust; 
I ll search it well so any ashes lurk 
Within its folds. 

Ulysses. Weep no more, bear him hence ; 

Too long he stays the sailing of the fleet. 855 


Chorus of Trojan Women. 

What country calls the captives ? Tempe dark ? 
Or the Thessalian hills ? or Phthia s land 
Famous for warriors ? Trachin s stony plains, 
Breeders of cattle ? or the great sea s queen, 840 
lolchos ? or the spacious land of Crete 
Boasting its hundred towns ? Gortyna small ? 
Or sterile Tricca ? or Mothone crossed 
By swift and frequent rivers ? She who lies 
Beneath the shadow of the CEtean woods, 845 

Whose hostile bowmen came, not once alone, 
Against the walls of Troy ? 
Or Olenos whose homes lie far apart ? 
Or Pleuron, hateful to the virgin god ? 
Or Trcezen on the ocean s curving shore ? 850 
Or Pelion, mounting heavenward, the realm 
Of haughty Prothous ? There in a vast cave 
Great Chiron, teacher of the savage child, 
Struck with his plectrum from the sounding strings 
Wild music, stirred the boy with songs of war. 855 
Perchance Carystus, for its marbles famed, 
Calls us ; or Chalcis, lying on the coast 

82 Seneca Act III 

Of the unquiet sea whose hastening tide 
Beats up the strait ; Calydna s wave-swept shore ; 
Or stormy Genoessa ; or the isle 860 

Of Peparethus near the seaward line 
Of Attica ; Enispe smitten oft 
By Boreas ; or Eleusis, reverenced 
For Ceres* holy, secret mysteries? 
Or shall we seek great Ajax Salamis ? 865 

Or Calydon the home of savage beasts ? 
Or countries that the Titaressus laves 
With its slow waters ? Scarphe, Pylos old, 
Or Bessus, Pharis, Pisa, Elis famed 
For the Olympian games ? 870 

It matters not what tempest drives us hence, 
Or to what land it bears us, so we shun 
Sparta, the curse alike of Greece and Troy ; 
Nor seek the land of Argos, nor the home 
Of cruel Pelops, Neritus hemmed in 875 

By narrower limits than Zacynthus small, 
Nor threatening cliffs of rocky Ithaca. 
O Hecuba, what fate, what land, what lord 
Remains for thee ? In whose realm meetst thou 
death ? 



Helen, Hecuba, Andromache, Polyxena. 

Helen [soliloquizing] . Whatever sad and joyless 
marriage bond 880 

Holds slaughter, lamentations, bloody war, 
Is worthy Helen. Even to fallen Troy 
I bring misfortune, bidden to declare 
The bridal that Achilles son prepares 
For his dead father, and demand the robe 885 
And Grecian ornaments. By me betrayed, 
And by my fraud, must Paris sister die. 
So be it, this were happier lot for her ; 
A fearless death must be a longed-for death. 
Why shrink to do his bidding ? On the head 890 
Of him who plots the crime remains the guilt. 
\_Aloud to Polyxena. 

Thou noble daughter of Troy s kingly house, 
A milder god on thy misfortune looks, 
Prepares for thee a happy marriage day. 
Not Priam nor unfallen Troy could give 895 

Such bridal, for the brightest ornament 
Of the Pelasgian race, the man who holds 
The kingdom of the wide Thessalian land, 
Would make thee his by lawful marriage bonds. 


84 Seneca Act IV 

Great Tethys, and the ocean goddesses, 900 

And Thetis, gentle nymph of swelling seas, 
Will call thee theirs ; when thou art Pyrrhus 


Peleus will call thee kin, as Nereus will. 
Put off thy robe of mourning, deck thyself 
In gay attire; unlearn the captive s mien, 905 

And suffer skillful hands to smooth thy hair 
Now so unkempt. Perchance fate cast thee down 
From thy high place to seat thee higher still ; 
It may be profit to have been a slave. 

Andromache. This one ill only lacked to fallen 

Troy : 910 

Pleasure, while Pergamus still smoking lies ! 
Fit hour for marriage ! Dare one then refuse ? 
When Helen would persuade, who doubtful weds ? 
Thou curse ! Two nations owe to thee their fall ! 
Seest thou the royal tomb, these bones that lie 915 
Unburied, scattered over all the field ? 
Thy bridal is the cause. All Asia s blood, 
All Europe s flows for thee, whilst thou, unstirred, 
Canst see two husbands fighting, nor decide 
Which one to wish the victor ! Go, prepare 920 
The marriage bed; what need of wedding torch 
Or nuptial lights, when burning Troy provides 
The fires for these new bridals ? Celebrate, 
O Trojan women, honor worthily 
The marriage feast of Pyrrhus. Smite your 

breasts, 925 

And weep aloud. 

Helen. Soft comfort is refused 

Scene I The Daughters of Troy 85 

By deep despair, which loses reason, hates 

The very sharers of its grief. My cause 

I yet may plead before this hostile judge, 

Since I have suffered heavier ills than she. 930 

Andromache mourns Hector openly, 

Hecuba weeps for Priam, I, alone, 

In secret, weep for Paris. Is it hard, 

Grievous, and hateful to bear servitude ? 

For ten long years I bore the captive s yoke. 935 

Is Ilium laid low, her household gods 

Cast down ? To lose one s land is hard indeed 

To fear is worse. Your sorrow friendship cheers, 

Me conquerors and conquered hate alike. 

For thee, there long was doubt whom thou 

shouldst serve, 940 

My master drags me hence without the chance 
Of lot. Was I the bringer of the war? 
Of so great Teucrian carnage ? Think this true 
If first a Spartan keel thy waters cut ; 
But if of Phrygian oars I am the prey, 945 

By the victorious goddess as a prize 
Given for Paris judgment, pardon me ! 
An angry judge awaits me, and my cause 
Is left to Menelaus. Weep no more, 
Andromache, put by thy grief. Alas, 95 

Hardly can I myself restrain my tears. 

Andromache. How great the ill that even 

Helen weeps ! 

Why does she weep ? What trickery or crime 
Plots now the Ithacan ? From Ida s top, 
Or Troy s high tower, will he cast the maid 955 

86 Seneca Act IV 

Upon the rocks P Or hurl her to the deep 
From the great cliff which, from its riven side, 
Out of the shallow bay, Sigeon lifts ? 
What wouldst thou cover with deceitful face ? 
No ill were heavier than this : to see 960 

Pyrrhus the son of Priam s Hecuba. 
Speak, plainly tell the penalty thou bringst. 
Take from defeat at least this evil, fraud. 
Thou seest thou dost not find us loth to die. 
Helen. Would that Apollo s prophet bade me 
take 9 6 5 

The long delay of my so hated life ; 
Or that, upon Achilles sepulcher, 
I might be slain by Pyrrhus cruel hand, 
The sharer of thy fate, Polyxena, 
Whom harsh Achilles bids them give to him 


To offer to his manes, as his bride 97 1 

In the Elysian Fields. 

\_Polyxena shows great joy, Hecuba sinks faint 
ing to the ground. 
Andromache. See with what joy a noble woman 


Death-sentence, bids them bring the royal robe, 
And fitly deck her hair. She deemed it death 975 
To be the bride of Pyrrhus, but this death 
A bridal seems. The wretched mother faints, 
Her sinking spirit fails ; unhappy one, 
Arise, lift up thy heart, be strong of soul ! 
Life hangs but by a thread how slight a thing 980 
Glads Hecuba ! She breathes, she lives again, 
Death flies the wretched. 

Scene I The Daughters of Troy 87 

Hecuba. Lives Achilles still 

To vex the Trojans ? Still pursues his foes ? 
Light was the hand of Paris ; but the tomb 
And ashes of Achilles drink our blood. 985 

Once I was circled by a happy throng 
Of children, by their kisses weary made, 
Parted my mother love amongst them all. 
She, now, alone is left ; for her I pray, 
Companion, solace, healer of my grief, 990 

The only child of Hecuba, her voice 
Alone may call me mother ! Bitter life, 
Pass from me, slip away, spare this last blow ! 
Tears overflow my cheeks a storm of tears 
Falls from her eyes ! 

Andromache, We are the ones should 

weep, 995 

We, Hecuba, whom, scattered here and there, 
The Grecian ships shall carry far away. 
The maid will find at least a sepulcher 
In the dear soil of her loved native land. 

Helen. Thy own lot known, yet more thou lt 
envy hers. 1000 

Andromache. Is any portion of my lot un 
known ? 

Helen. The fatal urn has given thee a lord. 

Andromache. Whom call I master ? Speak, 

who bears me hence 
A slave ? 

Helen. Lot gave thee to the Scyrian king. 

Andromache. H appy Cassandra, whom Apollo s 
wrath 1005 

; i 

88 Seneca Act IV 

Spared from such fate ! 

Helen. The prince of kings claims her. 

Hecuba. Be glad, rejoice, my child ; Androm 

Desires thy bridals, and Cassandra, too, 
Desires them. Is there any one would choose 
Hecuba for his bride ? 

Helen. Thou fallst a prey 1010 

To the unwilling Ithacan. 

Hecuba. Alas, 

What powerless, cruel, unrelenting god 
Gives kings by lot to be the prey of kings ? 
What god unfriendly thus divides the spoil ? 
What cruel arbiter forbids us choose 1015 

Our masters ? With Achilles arms confounds 
Great Hector s mother ? 

To Ulysses lot ! 

Conquered and captive am I now indeed, 
Besieged by all misfortunes ! Tis my lord 
Puts me to shame, and not my servitude ! 1020 
Harsh land and sterile, by rough seas enclosed, 
Thou wilt not hold my grave ! Lead on, lead on, 
Ulysses, I delay not, I will go 
Will follow thee ; my fate will follow me. 
No tranquil calm will rest upon the sea ; 1025 

Wind, war, and flame shall rage upon the deep, 
My woes and Priam s ! When these things shall 


Respite from punishment shall come to Troy. 
Mine is the lot, from thee I snatch the prize ! 
But see where Pyrrhus comes with hasty steps 1030 

Scene II The Daughters of Troy 89 

And troubled face. Why pause ? On, Pyrrhus, 


Into this troubled bosom drive the sword, 
And join to thy Achilles his new kin ! 
Slayer of aged men, up, here is blood, 1034 

Blood worthy of thy sword ; drag off thy spoil, 
And with thy hideous slaughter stain the gods 
The gods who sit in heaven and those in hell ! 
What can I pray for thee ? I pray for seas 
Worthy these rites ; I pray the thousand ships, 
The fleet of the Pelasgians, may meet 1040 

Such fate as that I fain would whelm the ship 
That bears me hence a captive. 


Chorus. Sweet is a nation s grief to one who 


Sweet are the lamentations of a land ! 1044 

The sting of tears and grief is less when shared 
By many ; sorrow, cruel in its pain, 
Is glad to see its lot by many shared, 
To know that not alone it surfers loss. 
None shuns the hapless fate that many bear ; 
None deems himself forlorn, though truly so, 1050 
If none are happy near him. Take away 
His riches from the wealthy, take away 
The hundred cattle that enrich his soil, 
The poor will lift again his lowered head ; 
Tis only by comparison man s poor. ! 1055 

90 Seneca Act IV 

Overwhelmed in hopeless ruin, it is sweet 
To see none happy. He deplores his fate 
Who, shipwrecked, naked, finds the longed-for 


Alone. He bears with calmer mien his fate 1059 
Who sees, with his, a thousand vessels wrecked 
By the fierce tempest, sees the broken planks 
Heaped on the shore, the while the northwest 


Drives on the coast, nor he alone returns 
A shipwrecked beggar. When the radiant ram, 
The gold-fleeced leader of the flock, bore forth 
Phryxus and Helle, Phryxus mourned the fall 1066 
Of Helle dropped into the Hellespont. 
Pyrrha, Deucalion s wife, restrained her tears, 
As he did, when they saw the sea, naught else, 
And they alone of living men remained. 1070 

The Grecian fleet shall scatter far and wide 
Our grief and lamentations. When shall sound 
The trumpet, bidding spread the sails ? When 


The laboring oars, and Troy s shores seem to flee ? 
When shall the land grow faint and far, the sea 
Expand before, Mount Ida fade behind ? 1076 
Then grows our sorrow ; then what way Troy lies 
Mother and son shall gaze. The son shall say, 
Pointing the while, There where the curving 


Of smoke floats, there is Ilium. By that sign 
May Trojans know their country. 1081 



Hecuba, Andromache, Messenger. 

Messenger. O bitter, cruel, lamentable fate ! 
In these ten years of crime what deed so hard, 
So sad, has Mars encountered ? What decree 
Of fate shall I lament ? Thy bitter lot, 1085 

Andromache ? Or thine, thou aged one ? 

Hecuba. Whatever woe thou mournst is 

Hecuba s ; 

Their own griefs only others have to bear, 
I bear the woes of all, all die through me, 
And sorrow follows all who call me friend. 1090 

Andromache. Suffering ever loves to tell its 


Tell of the deaths the tale of double crime; 
Speak, tell us all. 

Messenger. One mighty tower remains 

Of Troy, no more is left ; from this high seat 
Priam, the arbiter of war, was wont 1095 

To view his troops; and in this tower he sat 
And, in caressing arms, embraced the son 
Of Hector, when that hero put to flight 
With fire and sword the trembling, conquered 


From thence he showed the child its father s deeds. 


92 Seneca Act V 

This tower, the former glory of our walls, noi 

Is now a lonely, ruined mass of rock ; 

Thither the throng of chiefs and people flock ; 

From the deserted ships the Grecian host 

Come pouring ; on the hills some find a place, 1105 

Some on the rising cliffs, upon w r hose top 

They stand tiptoe ; some climb the pines, and 


And laurel, till beneath the gathered crowd 
The whole wood trembles ; some have found the 


Of broken crags ; some climb a swaying roof, mo 
Or toppling turret of the falling wall ; 
And some, rude lookers-on, mount Hector s 

Through all the crowded space, with haughty 


Passes the Ithacan, and by the hand 
Leads Priam s grandson; nor with tardy step 1115 
Does the young hero mount the lofty wall. 
Standing upon the top, with fearless heart 
He turns his eagle glance from side to side. 
As the young, tender cub of some wild beast, 
Not able yet to raven with its teeth, 1120 

Bites harmlessly, and proudly feels himself 
A lion ; so this brave and fearless child, 
Holding the right hand of his enemy, 
Moves host and leaders and Ulysses self. 
He only does not weep for whom all weep, 1125 
But while the Ithacan begins the words 
Of the prophetic message and the prayers 

Scene I The Daughters of Troy 93 

To the stern gods, he leaps into the midst 
Of his and Priam s kingdom, willingly. 

Andromache. Was ever such a deed by Col- 
chians done, 1130 

Or wandering Scythians, or the lawless race 
That dwells beside the Caspian ? Never yet 
Has children s blood Busiris altars stained, 
Nor Diomedes feasted his fierce steeds 
On children s limbs ! Who took thy body up, 
My son, and bore it to the sepulcher ? 1136 

Messenger. What would that headlong leap 

have left ? His bones 
Lie dashed in pieces by the heavy fall, 
His face and noble form, inheritance 
From his illustrious father, are with earth 1140 
Commingled ; broken is his neck ; his head 
Is dashed in pieces on the cruel stones 
So that the brains gush forth ; his body lies 
Devoid of form. 

Andromache. Like Hector, too, in this. 

Messenger. When from the wall the boy was 
headlong cast 1145 

And the Achaians wept the crime they did, 
Then turned these same Achaians to new crimes, 
And to Achilles tomb. With quiet flow 
The Rhoetean waters beat the further side, 
And opposite the tomb the level plain 1150 

Slopes gently upward, and surrounds the place 
Like a wide amphitheater ; here the strand 
Is thronged with lookers-on, who think to end 
With this last death their vessels long delay, 

94 Seneca Act v 

And glad themselves to think the foeman s seed 

At last cut off. The fickle, common crowd 1156 

Look coldly on ; the most part hate the crime. 

The Trojans haste with no less eagerness 

To their own funeral rites, and, pale with fear, 

Behold the final fall of ruined Troy. 

As at a marriage, suddenly they bring 

The bridal torches ; Helen goes before, 

Attendant to the bride, with sad head bent. 

< So may the daughter of Hermione 

Be wed, the Phrygians pray, c base Helen nnd 

Again her husband. Terror seizes both 

The awe-struck peoples. With her glance 


Modestly comes the victim ; but her 
Glow, arid her beauty shines unwontedly ; 
So shines the light of Phoebus gloriously 
Before his setting, when the stars return 
And day is darkened by approaching night. 
The throng is silenced ; all men praise the maid 
Who now must die : some praise her lovely form, 
Her tender age moves some, and some lament 
The fickleness of fortune ; every one 
Is touched at heart by her courageous soul, 
Her scorn of death. She comes, by Pyrrnus 

All wonder, tremble, pity ; when the hill 

Is reached, and on his father s grave advanced 

The young king stands, the noble maid shrinks 

But waits unflinchingly the fatal blow. 

Scene I The Daughters of Troy 95 

Her unquelled spirit moves the hearts of all ; 

And a new prodigy Pyrrhus is slow 

At slaughter ; but at length, with steady hand, 

He buries to the hilt the gleaming sword 1186 

Within her breast ; the life-blood gushes forth 

From the deep wound ; in death as heretofore 

Her soul is strong ; with angry thud she falls 

As she would make the earth a heavy load 1190 

Upon Achilles breast. Both armies weep ; 

The Trojans offer only feeble moans ; 

The victors mourn more freely. So was made 

The sacrifice ; her blood lay not for long 

Upon the soil, nor flowed away; the tomb 1195 

Drank cruelly the gore. 

Hecuba. Go, conquering Greeks, 

Securely seek your homes ; with all sail set, 
Your fleet may safely skim the longed-for sea. 
The lad and maid are dead, the war is done ! 
Where can I hide my woe, where lay aside 1200 
The long delay of the slow-passing years ? 
Whom shall I weep ? my husband, grandson, 


Or country ? Mourn the living or the dead ? 
O longed-for death, with violence dost thou 


To babes and maidens, but thou fleest from me ! 
Through long night sought, mid fire, and swords, 

and spears, I2o6 

Why fly me ? Not the foe, nor ruined home, 
Nor flame could slay me, though so near I stood 
To Priam ! 

96 Seneca Act V 

Messenger. \Taltbybius, coming from the Greek 

Captive women, seek with speed 
The sea ; the sails are filled, the vessels move. 1210 






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